Putnam County, N.Y., officials say they will defy state law and withhold the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in the county.(Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images)
CARMEL, N.Y. - Putnam County officials, who say they will refuse a
newspaper's request to release the names and addresses of residents with
pistol permits, would break New York law in withholding the data, a state official said.
opinion from Robert Freeman, executive director of the state's
Committee on Open Government, came after an announcement Tuesday from a
state senator and two county officials that they would refuse to release
the data requested by The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News, which
sought the records under the state Freedom of Information Law.
County officials in December said it was compiling the data. Putnam
County has about 100,000 residents and is part of the New York
State Sen. Greg Ball, a Republican from
Patterson, N.Y., called the Journal News' decision to publish the data
"asinine" and an invasion of privacy. He scheduled a press conference
Thursday with Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Putnam County
Clerk Dennis Sant to announce the decision.
Sant said his office has received an onslaught of calls demanding that he not release the data.
But Freeman said the law is clear: "The name and address of any gun licensee are public."
On Dec. 23, The Journal News published a report and interactive map, identifying the names and addresses
of those who legally hold pistol permits in Westchester and Rockland
counties. At that time, a request also was made to Putnam County.
map ignited a firestorm of controversy but also generated support. All
three requests for the gun data followed last month's mass killing at
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Freeman said The
Journal News could appeal a denial, which would be heard within Putnam
County government. If a second denial occurred, paper could ask a judge
The Wall Street Journal asked New York City officials
to turn over similar gun data several years ago. Freeman said that
request was denied, but the state's highest court later ruled in favor
Ball was firm in his position.
"I'm proud to
stand with Putnam County and proud that Putnam won't be releasing its
pistol permit records," he said in a statement. "The asinine editors at
the Journal News have gone out of their way to place a virtual scarlet
letter on law abiding firearm owners throughout the region and I thank
God that Putnam County has a clerk with the guts to stand up and draw
the line here."
Sant said he was happy to protect law-abiding gun owners in his county.
is the rule of law, and there is right and wrong, and The Journal News
is clearly wrong," he said in a statement. "I could not live with myself
if one Putnam pistol permit holder was put in harm's way, for the sole
purpose of selling newspapers."
Odell could not be reached for comment.
Journal News President and Publisher Janet Hasson defended her publication Tuesday.
believe the law is clear that this is public information, and the
residents of Putnam County are entitled to see it. We're troubled that
county officials have apparently switched their position since we first
requested the information."
John W. Barry, Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal