Bob Freeman, the veteran executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, said today that he supports the gun-control bill’s provision that would limit the public’s access to permit information.
The bill allows for gun licensees to opt out of having their personal information available to the public under the state’s Freedom of Information. There are a number of criteria to opt out of the disclosure, including fear of harassment if the information is released.
“If the legislation adds to people’s safety – particularly the safety of our children – I think it is more than worthwhile,” Freeman told Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “The legislation gives licensees an option to permit the disclosure of their names and addresses or to protect themselves if they feel that is warranted.”
The Journal News, a Gannett Co. Inc. publication, last month published an interactive map of handgun licenses in Westchester and Rockland counties that drew national criticism. Putnam County has refused the paper’s FOIL request for the information.
The gun-control package includes a provision that would be keep private a statewide database on gun owners and ammunition sales that would be used by law enforcement and mental health professional to enforce the state’s new laws. On the county level, clerks would oversee the opt-out option on license application — which includes options for law enforcement officials, victims of domestic violence or people who had served on a grand jury.
For the first 120 days of the new law, no information on gun licenses would be available, then the opt-out provision would take effect. People who already have licenses would be allowed to go back to the county clerks and fill out a form to opt out. All licenses have to be re-certified every five years.
Freeman said he expected most gun owners would opt out of the disclosure. He said the new legislation is consistent with laws on other sensitive personal information. Health-care documents and school records of children often have an opt-out policy, he said.
“As privacy laws are generally presented, not only in this country, but around the world, often the subject of the record is given a degree of control over disclosure and certainly this new provision is consistent with that general notion,” Freeman said.
Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, opposed the gun-control bill, but was pleased the privacy measures were included.
“As a community we stood firm on principle and fought for commonsense against the idiocy of the Journal News,” Ball said in a statement last night. “Tonight we have won a big battle against their unwarranted invasion of privacy and I am glad to have the support of the Governor and many in the Legislature to set the record straight and put an end to this public safety nightmare.”