UNANSWERED QUESTION: DID THE JOURNAL NEWS BREAK THE LAW?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 1, 2013) — On December 23, 2012, The Journal News of Westchester County published an interactive map of pistol permit holders in two New York counties as well as one Connecticut county bordering on New York. At the time, New York law permitted such a release, but Connecticut law does not. The Post & Email has contacted The Journal News directly without a response; the Connecticut Attorney General’s office, which stated that the law applied only to Connecticut officials but to seek an opinion from the New York Attorney General; and the New York Attorney General’s office on three different occasions by email and telephone.
In passing a new gun-control law last month entitled the SAFE Act, the New York legislature placed a 90-day moratorium on the release of pistol permit holders’ names and addresses and an option for a permit holder to request privacy going forward. In January, the Journal News removed the interactive capability of the map published with its original article, although pinpoints remained showing the locations of the pistol permit holders, including in Connecticut. A link leading to the updated article is now dead. However, on February 15, the Journal News reported that pistol permit holders had made use of the opt-out provision by requesting the form in significant numbers. The form is also available in electronic format. The applicant must indicate a reason for his privacy request.
The SAFE Act ordered a maximum of seven-round ammunition clips but did not contemplate that police and other law enforcement officers routinely use higher-capacity clips. Upon signing the bill, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had stated that “the high-capacity magazines that give you the capacity to kill a large number of human beings in a very short period of time is nonsensical to a civil society.”
States including Colorado, New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut are considering stricter gun-control laws in the aftermath of the December 14, 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School which took the lives of 26 children and staffers plus the mother of the gunman, who reportedly committed suicide before police arrived.
Second Amendment advocates fear that New York’s law and others which might be passed in various states infringe on people’s right to self-defense, lay the groundwork for national registration of firearms, and criminalize hunting rifles while the federal government is reportedly buying assault rifles and ammunition in the millions of rounds. Several upstate New York sheriffs agree that the law infringes on the Second Amendment.
The following letter was sent via email and standard mail this morning:
March 1, 2013
Office of the Attorney General
Albany, NY 12224-0341
Dear Sir or Madam:
RE: MEDIA INQUIRY – VIA EMAIL AND U.S. MAIL
RELEASE OF NAMES AND ADDRESSES OF CONNECTICUT RESIDENTS WHO HAVE NEW YORK STATE PISTOL PERMITS
I have submitted this question twice before and have not received a response from your office. About six weeks ago, someone from the AG’s office did call me back, but he referred me to a Criminal Division attorney who said that he could not comment on the matter and referred me back to the media office, hence this third request.
On December 23, 2012, The Journal-News of Westchester County published the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in two New York counties, which was legal in your state at the time. However, what no one seems to be reporting except my newspaper is that the names and addresses of New York pistol permit holders residing in at least one Connecticut county were also made public. While your law at the time stated that the release of the information was legal, in Connecticut it is not.
My question is: Did The Journal-News break the law by releasing the names and addresses of Connecticut residents who happened to have pistol permits issued by New York State?
I have contacted the newspaper and received no response. I contacted the Connecticut Attorney General’s office and received an opinion the same day. I plan on pursuing this matter until I receive an answer from the New York Attorney General’s office.
Thank you very much.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email