The Journal News is putting pressure on one of the New York counties it covers to hand over the names of handgun owners that the county has on record, Capital has learned.
The regional newspaper, which covers Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, caused a national controversy 10 months ago for publishing the names and addresses of handgun-permit holders in Westchester and Rockland.
Now, a source with knowledge of the matter tells Capital that the newspaper was preparing this afternoon to file a verified petition, asking a court to order Putnam County, about an hour north of Manhattan, to hand over gun-owner records.
Westchester has already handed over the lists being sought, and the paper has also submitted the same request to Rockland; but it was unclear Thursday whether Rockland’s had been turned over, the source said.
Registered handgun owners can request that their names not be included in public records, but their names are included by default if the permit holder does not take action to opt out. The Journal Newswants the names that were not withheld from the registry. Putnam, however, denied the paper’s initial public records request, the Putnam County Executive’s office confirmed to Capital.
“It’s a public safety issue and it’s also a privacy issue,” said the county executive, MaryEllen Odell, when asked why the request had been denied.
Odell said the county would continue to fight The Journal News‘ attempts to access the records.
In December, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., the Gannett-owned newspaper published an article titled “The gun owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood.”
The piece was accompanied online by an interactive map showing “the locations of all pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties.” The publicly available names and addresses of more than 33,000 permit holders were also published.
The Journal News was met with outrage from gun owners who argued that their safety had been compromised. As The New York Times reported, the paper had to go so far as to hire armed guards to patrol its offices in White Plains and Nyack after employees received threatening phone calls and emails. The newspaper removed the interactive map from its website on Jan. 18.
Mark Fowler, the newspaper’s attorney, did not immediately return calls or emails.
It’s unclear what The Journal News plans to do with the information it is attempting to collect.
UPDATE: Several hours after this item was published, The Journal News reported that it has “sued Putnam County and its county clerk’s office in state Supreme Court to compel them to release information about the county’s pistol permit holders.”