Officials in New York’s Putnam County said Wednesday that they are going to block a request from the Westchester-based Journal News to release records pertaining to holders of handgun permits—just two weeks after the paper published the names and addresses of people who hold gun permits in two other counties.
County officials told the newspaper that they would not provide the information.
Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant told The New York Times, “In Putnam County, I have over 11,000 pistol permit holders, and I refuse to put their lives and their families’ lives in danger.”
The Journal News reported that a New York-based open government official said that not releasing the records to the paper would violate the law.
Committee on Open Government Executive Director Robert Freeman said that the name and address of any gun licensee “shall be a public record,” meaning that under the law, if the Journal News wanted to publish that information, they should be able to do so, according to the Times.
Sant dissented, saying, “When these laws were conceived, there was no social media, there was no Google maps,” elaborating on the backlash that gun owners might face if their names and addresses were placed on an online map.
Last week, Sen. Greg Ball (R-N.Y.) described the Journal News’s move to publish the data as a “stupid idea,” saying that it would also invade privacy, according to an interview he had with Fox News. Ball said that he would move to pass a relevant law that would prevent similar measures from being undertaken in the future.
When these laws were conceived, there was no social media, there was no Google maps.
—Dennis Sant, Putnam county clerk
In a press release, Ball said that he will “team up with Putnam County” to prevent the Journal News from releasing gun permit holders’ information in order to “protect law-abiding gun owners.”
But Freeman told the Times that there is “not a lot of room for interpretation” of the state law.
“My hope is that officials in Putnam County will actually take a look at the law and reverse their response,” Freeman continued. “In a civilized society, we do our best to comply with the law. If we object to a law, we don’t simply ignore it.”
On Dec. 23, the Journal News published an interactive map and article titled, “Where are the gun permits in your neighborhood?” that showed the names and addresses of handgun permit holders—not rifle or shotgun owners—in Westchester and Rockland counties, which are located due north of New York City.
The map, which was compiled based on public records, drew both condemnation and praise from around the country. It also appeared to generate a significant amount of traffic to the paper’s website, as the article itself had received more than 42,000 “likes” on Facebook as of Wednesday.
In a strange twist, the Journal News reportedly hired armed guards from RGA Investigations & Security, which specializes in event security, private investigations, and protection, to protect its office in Rockland County.
The Rockland County Times said Tuesday that it received a police record, which stated that Journal News Rockland Editor Caryn A. McBride was worried about heavy amounts of “negative correspondence,” including threatening emails and phone calls.
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