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Putnam Denies Media Request for Gun Info

One source says the information has been considered public since at least 1965.

Led by State Sen. Greg Ball, Putnam officials are announcing that they will withhold records documenting the names and addresses of residents who possess pistol permits.

What some officials consider "standing up" for Putnam residents is a move that violates the law—and could lead to a court battle—according to Robert Freeman, executive director for the state Committee on Open Government.

The Journal News, a Gannett newspaper, had filed a request for the information. 

The shooting that left 26 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School had reignited the national discussion on gun control and gun laws. The Journal News ignited a separate firestorm Dec. 22 when it published, as it had in 2006, a database report of gun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. 

Since then, county leaders have received "hundreds of calls from Putnam residents" urging them "not to release these records," County Clerk Dennis Sant is quoted as saying in a statement given to Patch by Ball's office.

Ball is scheduled to hold a press conference Thursday with County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Sant "to announce that Putnam County will not be releasing the records of Putnam pistol permits to the Journal News."

This story, by John W. Barry of the Poughkeepsie Journal, appearing on LoHud.com, states that Putnam officials said in December they were compiling the data. 

Neither Odell nor Sant were available for comment the morning of Jan. 2.

Freeman has heard from big-name news agencies such as the Today Show inquiring about this situation, and whether the law leaves any room for interpretation. He said he had not been in touch with any Putnam officials. 

"My hope is, of course, that someone will actually look at the law instead of being a renegade unit of government," Freeman said, adding that names and addresses of gun permit holders have been considered public record since at least 1965.

According to Ball, the map The Journal News posted was unethical—and "every person with common sense should be offended."

“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 in Putnam County. This is clearly a violation of privacy, and needs to be corrected immediately."

Ball blogged about the issue on Patch Dec. 26.

Freeman said the law is just like any other, one that may be unpopular, like speed limits, but should be followed. To him, that's the "essence of civilized society"—following laws, "whether you like them or not."

"If we don’t like a particular law, what do we do? We make our case to our elected representativess and might engage in efforts to change the law," he said. "It seems to me that, unless that happens, we have to comply."

Yet here, he said, "You have a state senator saying 'I don't care what the law says.' Is that the best of role models?"

Once a request for records under the Freedom of Information Law has been denied, the applicant may appeal the decision with the head of the agency. If that request is also shot down, the matter could go to court. 

It's not uncommon for government agencies to go against the law and deny such requests, Freeman told Patch. In fact, it "happens every day." But more often, the opposite happens.

"Government agencies disclose every day over and over and over again," he said."But there are occasions when, at least in my view, government agencies may fail to comply with the law."

In the statement released by Ball's office, Sant said he's protecting "the law-abiding gun owners here in Putnam County." 

“There is the rule of law, and there is right and wrong and The Journal News is clearly wrong," he said. "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."

The shooting that left 26 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School reignited the national discussion on gun control and gun laws. The Journal News ignited a separate firestorm when it published, as it had in 2006, a database report of gun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. 

Level Headed January 05, 2013 at 12:50 AM
What everyone is forgetting is that when a FOIL request is made there is a paper trail of who asked for said information. When the P.O.S. newspaper released all that information they "broke the dam" and now there will be no "lead" when someone is targeted based on that knowledge that was released. Some may be targeted because they don't own guns. Some will be targeted "for their guns", those are the hands we don't want on our weapons. A professional "crew" that wants guns now have their work cut out for them.
FJT January 05, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Former burglars and other former criminals have commented on the absurdity of what the Journal News did. This new article is well worth reading. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/01/04/ex-burglars-say-newspapers-gun-map-wouldve-made-job-easier-safer/?intcmp=trending
FJT January 05, 2013 at 04:41 PM
How ironic the Journal News has hired armed guards. I thought they were against guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens. I guess the J-N people are very special people who deserve the protection guns afford, but ordinary people can't have such weapons for protection. Hypocrites. If they were intellectually honest, they'd put up signs declaring their property a gun-free zone and forbid any guns on their property -- just like the public schools. Or the J-N could construct "safe rooms" for their employees to cower in until the armed local police arrive. But no, the J-N wants to sit safely in an armed camp while they villify law-abiding gun owners. So far, no one from the Journal News has had the courage to return calls from News 12 Westchester (and other news media) about the hypocrisy of their actions.
Francis T McVetty January 05, 2013 at 09:10 PM
@ Joe Debono, and this happened when ? [Many of them are quick to threaten the papers and their staff with grave bodily harm for legally doing their job, so much so that the papers had to hire armed guards because of all the threats]
Francis T McVetty January 05, 2013 at 09:23 PM
It seems that the writer of the article lives in Queens new York and has a pistol license. I would like to know just how he got a license. Getting a pistol license in New York City is nearly impossible with all the hoops you must go through. maybe some favoritism involved? Just saying.

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