NY SAFE Gun Law Exonerates Putnam Officials
The historically swift passage of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act, (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act) which passed through the state Assembly late on January 14, the state Senate on January 15 and was signed into law within hours of its passage, provides specific exemptions that will block the release of gun permit holder’s personal information from being made public.
By passing this legislation, state lawmakers approved and confirmed the stance Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant took when he refused to divulge to The Journal News the names and addresses of Putnam residents who held legal gun permits. The Journal News filed a Freedom of Information Law request with Sant’s office on Dec. 17.
“I believe this [law] was a great step forward in protecting our citizens from harm’s way,” said Sant. “There is no longer any question that we had the right to respect the personal privacy of our residents.”
County Executive MaryEllen Odell fully supported Sant and was equally adamant that the privacy and safety of Putnam residents be respected. That Gov. Cuomo pushed through this legislation so quickly confirmed for her the wisdom of their much publicized refusal.
“The Governor and the state legislature saw the logic and recognized the merit of our stand and as a result, state laws were changed,” said Odell. “The text of this law reaffirms our position that the importance of protecting an individual’s privacy far exceeds any unfettered ‘right to know.’”
Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy said he “felt vindicated that the Governor and state legislature saw this as a public safety issue just as we did.”
According to New York SAFE Gun Law (S.2230/A.2388) an applicant or a registered gun permit holder may opt not to have their information released based on the real fear that by doing so “his or her life or safety” or that of their families “may be endangered” or that they or their families would become objects of ‘unwarranted harassment.” Exempted by the new law will be active or retired police, peace, probation, parole or corrections officers; anyone currently under an order of protection; any witness in a criminal proceeding involving a criminal charge; anyone who served as a juror in a criminal proceeding; or anyone who sat as a member of a grand jury.
New exemption forms have yet to be issued but will be made available by New York State Police within 30 days. Existing permit holders will have a 120 day window of time in which to file an application requesting that their information not be made public.
In his statement, Sen. Greg Ball congratulated the community for standing firm on principle and for fighting for common sense against the Journal News. “We have won a big battle against their [Journal News] unwarranted invasion of privacy” and have “put an end to this public safety nightmare.”
Following the bill’s speedy passage into law Assemblyman Steve Katz said the “only bright spot in the gun control legislation is that the Journal News will never again be able to endanger the law abiding gun owners of Putnam County and our state with a malicious FOIL request."