BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
It’s almost official. The Journal News has overplayed their hand, and as a result, the names and addresses of many or most pistol permit holders in New York will no longer be subject to FOIL requests by the news media and public at large.
In a late night session the New York State Senate passed new gun control regulations, among them privacy exceptions allowing certain pistol permit holders to remain anonymous. Pistol permit information will remain public information by default, but the privacy exceptions passed in the bill are so broad that they potentially cover a majority of applicants, depending on how they are ultimately applied on a county by county basis.
The gun regulation bill still awaits approval by the NYS Assembly and Governor Cuomo, who is its biggest backer.
State Senator Greg Ball (R-Patterson) ensured that any new gun legislation contained a “Journal News Clause” protecting the private information of gun owners. He did not get a total privacy clause like many states have, however.
He made the privacy push after public uproar over the White Plains-based newspaper’s publication of an interactive map showing the addresses of all pistol permit holders in Rockland and Westchester County.
Said Ball, “As a community we stood firm on principle and fought for common sense against the idiocy of the Journal News. Tonight we have won a big battle against their unwarranted invasion of privacy…I will continue to stand solidly behind my local officials in Putnam County, and provide them all necessary support moving forward, yet I am personally grateful that the Journal News will never be able to do something as dangerous and idiotic as this again.”
The “Journal News Clause” states if you were EVER a juror or a witness in a criminal trial or a grand jury hearing, you can apply for an exception to have your permit information made private on those grounds.
It also states that all law enforcement, peace officers and probation officers qualify for privacy exceptions, as well as persons who have a legal order of protection standing against another person.
The spouses or housemates of all aforementioned persons also qualify.
Two privacy exceptions in the clause that seemingly can apply to anyone who claims them are “The applicant has reason to believe his or her life or safety may be endangered by disclosure due to reasons stated by the applicant” and “the applicant has reason to believe he or she may be subject to unwarranted harassment upon disclosure of such information.”
All current holders of gun permits are eligible to apply for retroactive privacy, but, of course, the Journal News is not required to take down their interactive map, as the information was legally public when they received it.
Last week, Putnam County refused to provide the names of permit holders to the Journal News, citing privacy concerns. The Journal News announced their intentions to sue. How the case plays out in court remains to be seen, but assuming the Assembly and governor sign the bill into law, Putnam residents can soon apply to have their permit information made private and thus ineligible to be released even if the county loses their court case.
Though gun owners may have received an olive branch in the form of the privacy clause, the rest of the bill has caused considerable uproar among gun rights activists.
Ramapo-based Tea Party activist and 2010 GOP Congressional nominee Anthony Mele likened restrictions in the bill to a 1938 law in Nazi Germany. Furious gun owners barraged the Rockland County Times message boards with insults for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had used his political might to push the bill through around midnight Monday night/Tuesday morning.
The gun control bill, which passed 43-18, limits magazines sold or possessed in New York to seven rounds. Magazines up to 10 rounds are grandfathered in, but cannot be loaded with more than seven bullets as of one year from the bill’s final passage.
Any magazine over 10 rounds is illegal to possess within a year of the bill’s passage. The state’s “assault weapon” ban has been heightened. Previously a semiautomatic weapon with a detachable magazine could only have one feature on a laundry list of regulated items. Now such a weapon cannot have any of the regulated items.
Regulations on mentally ill, those with orders of protection against them, are heightened under the gun control bill. Ammunition sales and background checks are made more restrictive.
License holders are required to renew their gun license every five years or else their status is treated as if it had been revoked. Failure to renew one’s license can lead to charges of criminal possession of a firearm. Requirements for safe keeping of weapons are also heightened under the law.
Update — the bill has now passed the Assembly and been signed into law by Governor Cuomo.
Check back at www.rocklandtimes.com tomorrow for more information.