NY county: Releasing gun names endangers public

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 3, 2013 at 8:42 pm •  Published: January 3, 2013
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NEW YORK (AP) — A New York county clerk justified his refusal to release the names and addresses of handgun permit holders to a newspaper, saying it would give stalkers and thieves a convenient roadmap to target potential victims — and determine whether they have a gun.

"This certainly puts my public in danger," Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant said Thursday following a news conference in which he was backed by the county executive and other elected officials.

The Journal News, which serves New York City's northern suburbs, sparked an outcry last month when it published clickable online maps with the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties.

When the newspaper requested the same information from Putnam, Sant initially said the county needed more time to fulfill the request. Sant balked entirely this week, saying the law gives him the prerogative to refuse to release public information if it endangers the public. Judges and police officers could be targeted by the people they put behind bars, he said. People with orders of protection have expressed concern to him about would-be attackers finding them through the database.

While anyone can come into his office and file the necessary paperwork to request information on individual permits, Sant said the difference is that the Journal News plans to publish the information in a way that makes it accessible to everyone, instantaneously.

"First of all, it tells criminals who doesn't have a gun," he said. "It gives a burglar or it gives a thief a map."

The Journal News' database and accompanying story, "The Gun Owner Next Door," was published as part of the newspaper's coverage following the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Some readers say it unfairly stigmatized gun owners, branding them in the same way as online maps showing where child molesters live. The newspaper says it received threats and has posted armed guards at its offices.

Journal News Publisher Janet Hasson did not respond to several requests for comment Thursday but has issued statements previously standing behind the newspaper's project and maintaining residents have a right to see such public information.



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