Putnam County refuses to release pistol permit data - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Putnam County refuses to release pistol permit data

Posted: Updated:

Putnam County Executive Mary Ellen O'Dell is standing by her decision not to allow the release of names and addresses of permit holders to the Journal News.

"Privacy is very important. And there is the protection piece to this. We're looking to make sure our residents are safe and secure always. To have their names and addresses to be put into public record puts them at risk," O'Dell told Good Day NY on Friday.

"This certainly puts my public in danger," Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant said Thursday following a news conference in which he was backed by the county executive and other elected officials.

The county clerk justified his refusal, saying it would give stalkers and thieves a convenient roadmap to target potential victims — and determine whether they have a gun.

The Journal News, which serves New York City's northern suburbs, sparked an outcry last month when it published clickable online maps with the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties.

When the newspaper requested the same information from Putnam, Sant initially said the county needed more time to fulfill the request. Sant balked entirely this week, saying the law gives him the prerogative to refuse to release public information if it endangers the public. Judges and police officers could be targeted by the people they put behind bars, he said. People with orders of protection have expressed concern to him about would-be attackers finding them through the database.

While anyone can come into his office and file the necessary paperwork to request information on individual permits, Sant said the difference is that the Journal News plans to publish the information in a way that makes it accessible to everyone, instantaneously.

"First of all, it tells criminals who doesn't have a gun," he said. "It gives a burglar or it gives a thief a map."

The Journal News' database and accompanying story, "The Gun Owner Next Door," was published as part of the newspaper's coverage following the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Some readers say it unfairly stigmatized gun owners, branding them in the same way as online maps showing where child molesters live. The newspaper says it received threats and has posted armed guards at its offices.

Journal News Publisher Janet Hasson did not respond to several requests for comment Thursday but has issued statements previously standing behind the newspaper's project and maintaining residents have a right to see such public information.

Diane Kennedy, president of the New York News Publishers Association, said she reached out to Hasson offering support. She said editors may debate whether the Journal News should have published the database, but they fully backed the newspaper's right to access public records under New York's Freedom of Information Law. If the issue went to court, she said, member newspapers would file a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Journal News.

"It's really clear cut," Kennedy said. "The existing law doesn't have exemptions in it. It says this information is subject to FOIL."

Rex Smith, editor of the Times Union in Albany, N.Y., said : "There is a broad consensus that the kind of resistance to the FOIL application that we're seeing in Putnam County is intolerable."

The denial of similar information to The Wall Street Journal by New York City's police commissioner led to a case that in 1981 was decided in favor of the newspaper.

But Sant says that times have changed.

"The technology today is so different," he said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity of bringing to the magistrates that this is not 30 years ago."

Several attempts to pass a law that would shield gun permit holders' personal information have failed to pass the legislature in recent years.

Experts say the county may have a difficult time defending the refusal, because New York state law classifies the data as public.

"The argument has been made and rejected," said Robert Freeman of the State Committee on Open Government. "There's never been any indication that disclosure resulted in any jeopardy."

Edward S. Rudofsky, a New York attorney who specializes in the First Amendment, added, "I don't see why technology makes this any more or less sensitive than it would otherwise be."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

  • New York State NewsNew York State NewsMore>>

  • Huge graduation party busted

    Huge graduation party busted

    Thursday, July 31 2014 8:07 AM EDT2014-07-31 12:07:02 GMT
    New York State NewsNew York State News
    Authorities have arrested a 23-year-old central New York man who hosted a graduation party that got so big and rowdy that authorities called in a helicopter to help break it up. Gregory York was arrested Tuesday night and arraigned in Town of Manlius Court on criminal trespass charges. He's being held on $2,500 cash bail after his mother decided to press charges.
    Authorities have arrested a 23-year-old central New York man who hosted a graduation party that got so big and rowdy that authorities called in a helicopter to help break it up. Gregory York was arrested Tuesday night and arraigned in Town of Manlius Court on criminal trespass charges. He's being held on $2,500 cash bail after his mother decided to press charges.

  • U.S. Attorney warns Cuomo over Moreland Commission

    U.S. Attorney warns Cuomo over Moreland Commission

    Thursday, July 31 2014 6:46 AM EDT2014-07-31 10:46:15 GMT
    The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is reportedly warning Gov. Andrew Cuomo that he will investigate his administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering in connection with the Moreland anti-corruption commission. The NY Times reports the letter from Preet Bhara says, in part: "Some commissioners have been asked to issue public statements characterizing events and facts regarding the commission's operation."
    The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is reportedly warning Gov. Andrew Cuomo that he will investigate his administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering in connection with the Moreland anti-corruption commission. The NY Times reports the letter from Preet Bhara says, in part: "Some commissioners have been asked to issue public statements characterizing events and facts regarding the commission's operation."
  • Terror threats at chemical plants underestimated

    Terror threats at chemical plants underestimated

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 1:05 PM EDT2014-07-30 17:05:38 GMT
    Congressional investigators say the government is underestimating the threat of a chemical attack on America's densely populated cities and has failed to inspect virtually all of the chemical facilities that it...
    Congressional investigators say the government is underestimating the threat of a chemical attack on America's densely populated cities and has failed to inspect virtually all of the chemical facilities that it...
Powered by WorldNow

WTXF-TV
330 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106-2796

Phone: (215) 925-2929
Fax: (215) 982-5494

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices