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NY newspaper that outed gun owners hires armed guards

A newspaper in New York's Lower Hudson Valley that was besieged by criticism for publishing the names of local gun owners in December now reportedly has hired armed guards because of safety concerns.

After the Dec. 14 shootings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting left 20 children and six adult staffers dead, The Journal News published the names and addresses of licensed gun owners across New York's Westchester and Rockland counties. The information was publicly available — something anyone can access through a Freedom of Information Act request. But the newspaper's move to post an interactive map with the data online brought a heated reaction.

The Journal News has hired armed security guards for its Rockland County headquarters in West Nyack, N.Y. through at least Wednesday, according to the Rockland County Times.

The Times cited local police reports that stated a Journal News editor was concerned by the amount of "negative correspondence" the paper's office received. But the hired security firm told Clarkstown, N.Y., police last Friday that there had been no problems at the newspaper's headquarters, the Journal News reported.

Following the outrage, the newspaper had defended its publication of the gun owners names.

"We felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings," Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, told Reuters.

Related: Newtown school shooting reignites gun control debate

New York newspaper The Journal News is responding to massive criticism after publishing the addresses of gun permit owners in two counties. The information published in the article isn't anything secret, but the data spread like wildfire on social media, sparking thousands of angry complaints. NBC's Katy Tur explains how and why the newspaper created the map that's sparking so much outrage.

The Journal News wasn't able to obtain the amount of guns or types of guns in these households across the two counties — just the names and addresses.

The Journal News had also requested information for pistol permit holders in Putnam County, N.Y., but county officials denied the request, Reuters reported.

"There is the rule of law, and there is right and wrong, and the Journal News is clearly wrong," Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant told Reuters in a statement. "I could not live with myself if one Putnam pistol permit holder was put in harm's way, for the sole purpose of selling newspapers."

Related: 'We are your neighbors, co-workers, friends,' say gun owners

The Journal News' Hasson told Reuters in a statement Tuesday that they are "troubled" with the county's move: "We believe the law is clear that this is public information and the residents of Putnam County are entitled to see it."

The Journal News reportedly has taken an editorial position in favor of strict gun control, according to the Rockland County Times. The Journal News Media Group, owned by Gannett, serves New York's Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties. The region is just north of New York City.

According to Reuters, Republican New York state Sen. Greg Ball wants to introduce legislation that would keep permit information private with exceptions for prosecutors and police. When Ball was a state assemblyman, he introduced a similar bill that failed, Reuters reported.

NBC's Katy Tur and Reuters contributed to this story.

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