NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Putnam County officials say they will reject a newspaper’s request to release the names and addresses of residents with pistol permits — a move an open government advocate calls illegal.
County Clerk Dennis Sant said officials were meeting Wednesday to discuss legal options.
“In Putnam County, I have over 11,000 pistol permit holders, and I refuse to put their lives and their families’ lives in danger,” Sant told The New York Times. “When these laws were conceived, there was no social media, there was no Google maps.”
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Robert Freeman, executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, said the county would be violating state law if it withholds the information. “The name and address of any gun licensee are public,” he said.
A story published by the Journal News on Dec. 23 was accompanied online by maps with the name and address of each pistol or revolver permit holder in Westchester and Rockland counties.
The story included comments from both sides of the gun rights debate and presented the data as answering concerns of those who would like to know whether there are guns in their neighborhood.
Following the Newtown school shootings, reporters obtained the information by filing a Freedom of Information Act.
Critics called the publication an invasion of privacy; some said it could endanger permit holders.
“It’s turned out to be an action that was reckless,” Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said, adding that residents without gun permits could also be targeted by criminals.
State Sen. Greg Ball referred to Journal News editors as “elitist eggheads” and called the decision to publish the maps “asinine,” that newspaper reported.
“I thank God that Putnam County has a clerk with the guts to stand up and draw the line here in Putnam County,” said Ball, who plans to appear Thursday at a news conference with county officials.
The Journal News has hired armed guards at its headquarters after being flooded with angry calls, but the paper is standing by the project.
“Sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings,” the paper said in a statement.
“We believe the law is clear that this is public information and the residents of Putnam County are entitled to see it,” said Journal News President and Publisher Janet Hasson. “We’re troubled that county officials have apparently switched their position since we first requested the information.”
Freeman said the Journal News could appeal a denial, which would be heard within Putnam County government. If a second denial occurred, the newspaper could ask a judge to decide.
The online map only tracks handguns because state law doesn’t require permits for rifles and shotguns.
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