Photo: NY Senate
Politicians are so mad at a Westchester, N.Y. newspaper for publishing an interactive map showing the names and addresses of gun owners that they want to tighten up public information laws.State Sen. Greg Ball and Assemblyman Steve Katz, both Republicans, announced Thursday they want a law making any information about handgun permits confidential, The Journal News reported.
The Journal News’ map plots out names and addresses of registered gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties.
However, readers can’t search the map by name, “meaning an abusive ex-husband or former partner could not input a domestic violence victim’s name who is a permit holder and find out that person’s address,” the paper has written in its defence.
That justification hasn’t done much to appease an angry community, which was so upset by the map the News had to hire armed guards to protect its headquarters from all the threats the paper received concerning the map.
The News also tried to gather handgun permit information for Putnam County, but so far county officials have refused to release the data, saying it could cause a public safety issue.
But, as journalism industry blog Poynter noted Friday, public officials can’t deny public records requests unless they deal with employment or medical records, ask for names of addresses to use for fundraising, or would cause “economic or personal hardship” to the subject of the request.
“New York law is fairly clear on this point,” according to Poynter.
Under New York law, Putnam County legally has to turn over its records about handgun permit holders, state Committee on Open Government executive director Robert Freeman told USA Today.
“There are times when just saying ‘No’ doesn’t work,” Freeman told the News. “Anybody has the right to do what The Journal News has done.”
While politicians debate what changes should be made in the future, News President and Publisher Janet Hasson vowed to “aggressively pursue” the paper’s request under current public record laws laws.
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