The following was sent in a press release from Putnam County officials the day before they held a press conference explaining why they refuse to release public records documenting residents who hold gun permits.
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, state Sen. Gregory Ball, Assemblyman Steve Katz, and several additional county officials will accompany Putnam County Clerk Dennis J. Sant at a 12 noon press conference to be held indoors at Cornerstone Park, 1 Fair Street in Carmel, NY on Thursday, January 3 to discuss Sant’s refusal to comply with a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request issued by The Journal News.
On Dec. 23, The Journal News published an interactive map on its online news outlet, LoHud.com, which identified the names and addresses of people in Westchester and Rockland counties who legally possess pistol permits.
Sant, who has served in the County Clerk’s Office since 1978, refused to comply with the newspaper’s FOIL request seeking the same information on Putnam gun permit holders. Sant cited the safety of Putnam’s citizens as his reason for not complying.
“Our world today is far different than it was only a few years ago. Computers, social media, Google maps – much of our lives can easily be exposed and made available whether we want it to be or not,” said Sant. “Today you can take what The Journal News put into print, go on Google Earth and virtually be sitting on the front porch of a house reading the license plate of a car parked in the driveway. This county clerk refuses to put law abiding citizens in harm’s way.”
Odell said she is as adamant in her support for Sant as she is that the issue at hand, the release of pistol permit holders’ names and addresses, has nothing to do with gun control or the recent shooting tragedy in Newtown, CT.
“We simply cannot stand by and allow this to happen,” Odell said. “Safeguarding our citizens is of the utmost importance right now. The FOIL request by the Journal News was reckless as it puts every Putnam family at risk: people with legally registered guns as well as those who have chosen not to have a weapon in their house.”
Sen. Gregory Ball said he is proud to stand with those who defend Sant’s actions.
“I’m proud to stand with Putnam County and proud that Putnam won’t be releasing its pistol permit records. I thank God that Putnam County has a clerk with the guts to stand up and draw the line. This is clearly a violation of privacy, and needs to be corrected immediately,” said Ball. “Publishing this information on a website provides criminals with a map of where they can steal firearms from lawful owners for later use in the commission of crimes. We have victims of domestic violence, retired cops with families and good decent, law abiding people, all being publicly exposed. It is time for Putnam to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”
Assemblyman Steve Katz said he would always defend an individual’s right to privacy.
“We’re standing together in a bi-partisan manner to protect the rights of privacy and to protect both the people whose names are on that list and the names of the people who are not on that list,” he said.
Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy said innocent people may find they are targets of a criminal element.
“Just because the information may be public does not necessarily mean it is prudent to allow that information to get into the hands of certain individuals, those of a criminal element who would use that information to further victimize people here in Putnam County,” said Levy. “The paper should be very concerned about who is reviewing this information and how they are going to use it to potentially commit further crimes.”
Legislator Richard Othmer of Kent, a gun owner, will also be present.
“As a Putnam County Legislator and a gun owner, I am in full support of Dennis Sant. I really believe it is an invasion of privacy and [publication of the list] is going to target certain people,” Othmer said.
Citing an example of the risks people face should the gun permit list requested by The Journal News be made public, Sant spoke of the more than 200 phone calls his office has received following the publication of Westchester and Rockland gun permit holders’ names and addresses in the Dec. 24 print edition of The Journal News. Sant said the greater majority have been from people who have had to have an Order of Protection issued against other individuals and now own a gun to protect themselves from those who have abused them in the past and may still wish to cause them harm.
“Some of these individuals, many of them women, are basically in hiding,” said Sant.
The Journal News has fielded many calls, emails, questions and comments since the report's publication. Go here to read the FAQ it published in response.