Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, said today that the state Legislature should revisit the part of the new gun-control law that would restrict public access to gun-permit information.
After the Journal News, a Gannett Co. Inc., publication, posted an interactive map of addresses and names of pistol-permit holders, the state Legislature responded Tuesday by adopting a regulation that would allow permit holders to opt out of public disclosure.
The opt-out clause allows for a request of a privacy exemption for specific reasons, such as being an active or retired police officer, having an order of protection, having been a witness in a criminal proceeding or having been a juror or on a grand jury.
It includes broad language for others seeking an exemption, such as if the applicant “has reason to believe his or her life or safety may be endangered by disclosure” or “may be subject to unwarranted harassment.”
Lerner said the provision is too broad and would lessen the public’s ability to hold government accountable for its permitting process. Lerner said she doesn’t oppose some opt-out provision for police or domestic-violence victims, but the law should be narrower.
“There is a public responsibility in being licensed and secondly it’s very important that government should be transparent to the public,” Lerner said.
Bob Freeman, the executive director of the state Commission on Open Government, said Wednesday he had no issue with the new law.
Some media organizations agree with Lerner. In a statement Wednesday, the Radio-Television Digital News Association said the information should remain public.
“This is clearly a wild overreaction to the decision to publish the names,” said Mike Cavender, the group’s executive director, in a statement. “Closing off public records is an excessive and inappropriate response, and we respectfully urge Governor Cuomo and New York legislators to restore the public’s access to this information.”
The public has reacted strongly to the publishing of the names and addressed by the Journal News. County clerks in Westchester and Rockland said they have been inundated with calls from the public wanting to opt out of the public disclosure.
“That article put a certain amount of fear in a lot of people, and now that it’s out and it’s still up, I wish they would take it down,” said Paul Piperato, the Rockland County clerk.