State Sen. Greg Ball of the 40th District, which represents parts of Putnam County including Mahopac, is working on introducing legislation that would allow county clerks to deny public information, such as people’s names and home addresses, if it’s determined that the party requesting the information intends on publishing it without the consent of those listed.
The effort comes on the heels of a controversial map published in December by The Journal News that featured the full names and home addresses of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. This map, of course, comes in the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., some 30 miles from Mahopac. The paper is also planning on publishing another map in the near future of those residents in Putnam County who are licensed to own a pistol. The paper obtained the information by submitting Freedom of Information requests. By state law, the information is public record.
In a written statement, Janet Hasson, president and publisher of Journal News Media Group, explained the reasoning for publishing the map.
“Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular,” Hasson wrote. “One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular. We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.”
Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, confirmed that the news outlet was not in any kind of violation. In fact, while some may believe that the map unfairly outs or demonizes those people, Freeman said the map simply lists the names and addresses of law-abiding gun owners.
Ball also recognizes that The Journal News did not violate existing laws, but it is his intention to introduce a new law that would, for example, prevent a publication from successfully repeating these kinds of efforts.
“We need to put further protections in place,” Ball said. “It was a complete breach of faith and it exposed very private information of private citizens including victims of domestic violence and retired police officers who spent entire careers putting criminals in jail.”
Ball called the map a “shopping list” for those looking to obtain guns illegally and said that people now have to worry about “nut control.” For anyone looking to steal a gun, all they have to do is look at this map, he said.
“If The Journal News wants to do something incredible in terms of gun control, map out those who have firearm violations,” Ball said. “But it’s their typical egghead liberal assault on common sense.” (ARTICLE)