Members of the Associated Press have received overt threats from gun-rights proponents after the Associated Press filed a request with the Attorney General Tim Fox to receive a list of concealed weapon permit holders in Montana. Fox denied the AP’s request, which sparked a flurry of vitriolic online comments.
One blog comment read, “If only someone could release the names of the AP reporters, where they work, their home addresses, names of family members, where their children go to school and what kind of car they drive with the license plate number.”
Another proposed collecting photographs of reporters’ children on the way to school.
Yet another commenter wrote, “Associate Propaganda – they will know when they see my muzzle flash.”
It is understandable that gun-rights proponents were irked by the idea of having their information put out into the public sphere, but there is a big difference between seeking public information through official channels and attempting to spark a retaliatory attack against reporters and their children.
Members of the AP reported the incident to authorities. Jim Barnes, a spokesman for Fox, stated, “If any employee of the AP or their families or any citizens or anyone has a threat, that person should contact their city or county law enforcement officers.”
Jim Clarke, the AP chief of bureau for Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, explained the information request, saying “AP acted under freedom of information law, which we do routinely in seeking records at the federal, state and local level as part of our newsgathering process and our long-standing mission to assure transparency and accountability in government… We have never had any interest in publishing the Montana database in its entirety.”
The AP worked well within the law, while those angry commenters wrote things that bordered on criminal death threats.
What are your thoughts on this story? Should online threats really be taken seriously? Do you think that the AP is rightly getting a taste of its own medicine, or are they being unfairly victimized?