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NY county: Releasing gun names endangers public

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 3, 2013 at 8:42 pm •  Published: January 3, 2013

Diane Kennedy, president of the New York News Publishers Association, said she reached out to Hasson offering support. She said editors may debate whether the Journal News should have published the database, but they fully backed the newspaper's right to access public records under New York's Freedom of Information Law. If the issue went to court, she said, member newspapers would file a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Journal News.

"It's really clear cut," Kennedy said. "The existing law doesn't have exemptions in it. It says this information is subject to FOIL."

Rex Smith, editor of the Times Union in Albany, N.Y., said : "There is a broad consensus that the kind of resistance to the FOIL application that we're seeing in Putnam County is intolerable."

The denial of similar information to The Wall Street Journal by New York City's police commissioner led to a case that in 1981 was decided in favor of the newspaper.

But Sant says that times have changed.

"The technology today is so different," he said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity of bringing to the magistrates that this is not 30 years ago."

Several attempts to pass a law that would shield gun permit holders' personal information have failed to pass the legislature in recent years.

Experts say the county may have a difficult time defending the refusal, because New York state law classifies the data as public.

"The argument has been made and rejected," said Robert Freeman of the State Committee on Open Government. "There's never been any indication that disclosure resulted in any jeopardy."

Edward S. Rudofsky, a New York attorney who specializes in the First Amendment, added, "I don't see why technology makes this any more or less sensitive than it would otherwise be."