Last Wednesday, the Des Moines Register published the results of a survey of Iowa school districts that asked whether they had regular security on their premises. The news value was pretty clear: after the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, policymakers across the country began discussing school security. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre called for armed guards in every school in America in place of meaningful gun law reforms. School security funds are part of the gun legislation Democrats are about to introduce for a vote in the Senate.
But the Register caused a stir because it published an interactive map that showed which districts had a regular police or security presence in at least one of their schools, which didn’t, and which didn’t respond to the survey. After a flood of paranoid complaints that the map could serve as a blueprint for deranged gunmen seeking defenseless targets, Register editor Rick Green quickly had the map pulled from the story (without acknowledging the change). Here’s a screenshot from Newsmax:
Green was later invited on Fox News to explain himself, and host Megyn Kelly subjected him to a “hard-hitting” interview replete with feigned outrage. Green defended the report as a “revelatory look” at an Iowa policy discussion but explained that he took the map down as soon as he caught wind of reader complaints:
The Fox report showed a screenshot of the map in black and white to obscure its color coding, as did the Blaze. In reality, the Register reported nothing dangerous: 54 districts had a regular police or resource officer presence in at least one unspecified school, and “[p]olice or sheriff’s officers visit and provide security to schools as needed in many of the rest of Iowa’s 348 districts on a regular basis.”
If the Register didn’t see the barrage of unhinged complaints coming before it published the story, it wasn’t paying much attention to gun politics in the media. In January, the New York Journal News, which like the Register is owned by Gannett, published a map revealing the names and addresses of gun permit holders. After receiving threats and complaints, the paper took down the map. In 2011, Cityview published a list of more than 5,000 Polk County residents who’d applied for gun permits. (The list doesn’t appear to be online.)
The Register‘s map was the second gun controversy that has resulted in national attention for the paper in recent months. Two weeks after the Newtown shooting, Donald Kaul wrote a tongue-in-cheek column saying that he “would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.”