State Judge: Release CCW holders private information!
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell did not comment, unclear if county will appeal.
Former county clerk Dennis Sant refused to release records saying it would endanger permit holders
Unclear how judge's ruling will affect similar suit against Rockland County
A state judge has ordered Putnam County to turn pistol permit records over to The Journal News, which sued for the data last fall after the county denied the newspaper's Freedom of Information Law requests.
In a five-page decision Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary cited the NY-SAFE Act, a sweeping series of gun-control measures that allowed gun owners to remove their names from a public database after the law was enacted in January 2013.
Neary ruled that the names remaining on the database those who did not ask to be removed from it are a public record and therefore subject to open disclosure laws.
"These provisions address legitimate issues of privacy and safety held by pistol license holders," the judge wrote. "However, they also unequivocally direct the public disclosure of names and addresses of license holders who did not choose to seek an exception."
Putnam County Executive MaryE
llen Odell did not return several calls seeking comment. The county could appeal the decision.
The Journal News first filed Freedom of Information Law requests in the wake of the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. The newspaper sought the names of permit holders in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, with the information to be used in a Dec. 23, 2012, article.
Westchester and Rockland provided the records, but then-Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant denied the newspaper's request as well as a subsequent appeal for the information, saying it would endanger permit-holders.
Sant could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Journal News' 2012 report, which allowed residents to determine if there were gun permit holders in their neighborhoods, included a map listing the names and addresses of permit holders in Westchester and Rockland. In the months that followed the newspaper became the target of intense criticism and even threats from gun advocates.
The report also led to the enactment of NY-SAFE. Passed in January 2013, the law gave pistol permit holders a 120-day moratorium to request that their identifying information be removed from the public list. When that period ended May 15, 2013, The Journal News filed new requests for the names of those remaining on the database.
Putnam and Rockland both denied those requests. The Journal News filed its lawsuit against Putnam County in October, and last week filed a separate suit against Rockland for its records.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day did not return a telephone call Wednesday.
CynDee Royle, The Journal News' editor and vice president/news, said the law is clear that the records belong to the public. "The decision supports that position and enforces the public's right to open records," she said.
Royle said the newspaper would not produce comprehensive lists or maps identifying permit holders with the information it is now seeking. She said that is because the list of permit holders is no longer comprehensive since NY-SAFE allowed many of them to opt out of the public list. The newspaper would use the gun data for analysis and in reporting relevant articles.