by Casey Seiler
Another day, another back-and-forth in the controversy over the Journal News’ decision to publish an interactive map of the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties, and the refusal by Putnam County officials to produce similar data — despite its clearly being subject to state Freedom of Information Law disclosure.
Just since 3 p.m., we’ve seen two releases on the subject, along with Gawker’s decision to publish the names (but not addresses) of all pistol permit holders in New York City — based on a 2010 data dump from the NYPD. (You’ll find “DeNiro, Robert” on there, which might or might not be the “Taxi Driver” star.)
On the Journal News’ debate, here’s the statement from the good-government groups Common Cause/NY, the League of Women Voters of NY, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and the Partnership for the Public Good:
By taking the position that gun permit information will not be provided in response to a Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) request, Putnam County is ignoring state law. The Penal Law is clear: “the name and address of any person to whom an application for any license has been granted shall be a public record.” Similarly, the FOIL law, which governs access to public records is also clear, and like any law, is not subject to selective application. This is no different than information about parking tickets, property records, or professional licenses.
The Freedom of Information Law presumes that government records are public information unless they fall within narrow exceptions.
“Sunshine” laws, like FOIL, are essential for making government transparent and accountable. We oppose efforts to undermine the integrity of the state’s Freedom of Information Law, and fear the slippery slope of carving out exceptions as an attempt to undermine the public interest. New York needs more transparency and publicly available information, not less.
And here’s a how-ya-like-me-now statement from state Sen. Greg Ball of Putnam County, noting that the Journal News has been the subject of threats to its personnel since the map went up:
How ironic that the same irresponsible editors, who one day before Christmas, went out of their way to place a virtual scarlet letter on law abiding firearm owners, including victims of domestic violence, hero cops and single moms, are now crying uncle. When asked to take the site down, they told all of these good, law abiding people to “eat cake”. Well, now these same editors are getting a taste of that poisonous cake and if anything can wake them up and force them to take the interactive crime spree map down, maybe it will be their own intrinsic cowardice, because we sure as hell can’t rely on their good judgment.
Ball is pushing legislation that would make gun permit application info exempt from FOIL, and an alternative bill that would do the same thing for law enforcement officers. (ARTICLE)