NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Gun owners in New York who don’t want their license information available to the public are facing a deadline to file an exemption form with local licensing authorities.
Starting Wednesday, the records of anyone who has asked to be exempt from the state Freedom of Information Law will be kept secret. But the information will be available for gun owners who haven’t acted.
The secrecy provision was included in January legislation that toughened New York gun laws to require registration of military-style weapons as well as pistols and limit the number of bullets allowed to be loaded into a clip or magazine.
Lawmakers were reacting to controversy surrounding the decision by The Journal News to publish a map showing information about gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties following the Newtown, Conn., school massacre.
The county clerk in neighboring Putnam County refused the newspaper’s request for the information, which has traditionally been public, and there was a sharp reaction from some lawmakers who argued gun owners could be put at risk of burglaries or assaults.
“It was a boneheaded maneuver that really created a public safety nightmare,” State Sen. Greg Ball said in January.
“If you meet the rules and you get a license in the legal way and you have that license, I don’t think that should be printed in a newspaper,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said after the website Gawker also published a 446-page list of licensed gun owners for New York City.
The form to request the exemption is available online and must be given to the local authority in charge of licensing. Anyone who doesn’t file by the initial deadline, including those getting new licenses, may still file in the future. Their records will be subject to FOIL requests in the meantime.
Authorities can deny the request for an exemption, based on answers to questions on the form. Among those eligible are active or retired law enforcement officers, people under a currently valid order of protection and current and former witnesses and jurors in criminal cases.
Gun owners and their relatives can also request the exemption if they believe their lives or safety would be endangered or they would be subject to “unwarranted harassment” if the records were disclosed.
Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant said Wednesday that he will continue to resist requests for the information, even if permit holders have not requested exemptions.
He said that under existing law, he can refuse if he determines “that the information given out would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy or puts the citizen in harm’s way.
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said she supports Sant’s decision.
“We’re still standing shoulder to shoulder and I’ll continue to stand to protect the privacy of our residents,” she told WCBS 880′s Sean Adams.
For more information or to download a copy of the FOIL exemption form, click here.
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