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New York newspaper takes down gun owner details from website

(Reuters) - A New York newspaper pulled the names and addresses of thousands of gun permit holders from its website on Friday, ending a fierce battle over the data published after the Connecticut elementary school massacre.

The Journal News, which serves suburbs just north of New York City in Westchester and Rockland counties, cited in part New York's new gun control law, which allows permit holders to request confidentiality, for its decision to take the data down.

The newspaper, owned by the Gannett Co, published a map with the names and addresses of permit holders in the areas it serves last month in the aftermath of the massacre of 20 children and six adults at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The publication created an uproar among gun enthusiasts, and the Journal News felt threatened enough by the outcry over the map to hire a private security company to protect its employees. State gun-owner groups had called for an advertising boycott until the newspaper removed the information from its website.

Janet Hasson, president and publisher of the Journal News Media Group, on Friday stood behind the decision to publish the data, saying the dots on the interactive map conveyed a powerful message.

"But the database has been public for 27 days and we believe those who wanted to view it have done so already," Hasson said in a letter on the www.lohud.com website. "As well, with the passage of time, the data will become outdated and inaccurate."

A non-interactive screenshot of the dots was maintained on the site.

Hasson said the decision to remove the information was not a concession to critics who questioned the value of posting it or a response to the threats to staff, and that the newspaper would "continue to report aggressively on gun ownership."

She said the newspaper does not endorse the state legislature's decision to limit public access to the permit data, "But we are not deaf to voices who have said that new rules should be set for gun permit data."

The gun control provisions signed into law on Tuesday by Governor Andrew Cuomo expanded a state ban on assault weapons, imposed limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines and added measures to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

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