Putnam County officials have announced they will not turn over information to a local newspaper regarding pistol permit holders in the county. The records are public information maintained by the county clerk's office.
Last week, the Journal News and its website printed a story on gun permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties that included a graphical map with names and home addresses of everyone with such permits. The paper said that information came from county clerks' offices.
Putnam County officials have refused to turn over the information, calling it a violation of privacy.
"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," state Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) said Wednesday. "We have victims of domestic violence, retired cops with families and good, decent, law-abiding people, all being publicly exposed by the idiotic Journal News editors, and it's time for Putnam to draw a line in the sand and say, enough is enough."
The head of New York State's Committee on Open Government, however, said Ball and other officials are wrong. Robert Freeman, the committee's executive director, said New York law plainly states that the names and addresses of pistol permit holders are to be held as publicly available records.
"There is no leeway there," he said. "The Journal News or anyone else has the right to get the name and address of anyone holding a pistol or revolver permit in Putnam County or anywhere in New York."
He said the newspaper could appeal the county's denial or resort to filing a lawsuit if the county continues its refusal to disclose the information.
"My hope is that officials in Putnam County will read the law and recognize they have no choice but to comply," Freeman said.
Ball and other elected officials are planning a news conference Thursday to further detail the decision.
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell -- who is scheduled to be at the news conference with Ball -- did not return calls seeking comment.
Janet Hasson, the publisher of the Journal News, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.