N.Y. won’t release gun law statistics


ALBANY — State police are refusing to release statistical information about the number of new pistol permits in New York or how many assault weapons have been registered under a controversial gun-control law enacted in January.

The SAFE Act forbids the disclosure of gun owners’ names who want to keep the information private and also doesn’t allow a new gun database created by the law to be released publicly.  

But the state is citing the law as a reason to not release any numbers about pistol permits or assault weapons in New York.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, said the position by state police is inconsistent with the law.

“If we’re talking about statistics only, not the actual records that were assembled or collected, in my opinion they’re public,” Freeman said. “I don’t know why they would be reluctant.”

The Albany Bureau appealed a September ruling by state police that rejected a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law for data on how many pistol permits had been issued by county in 2012 and this year.

The appeal was denied. In a Nov. 15 letter, state police said: “Because the records you sought would be derived from documents that were assembled or collected for purposes of inclusion in the State Police’s database, they are not subject to disclosure under FOIL.”

The Times Union in Albany reported Nov. 8 that it received a similar response when it sought details on how many assault-weapons owners registered with the state.

The SAFE Act has pitted gun-control groups against gun-rights advocates. Both sides agreed that the data should be released.

Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, Monroe County, said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration doesn’t want to release the data because it would show little compliance with the new gun law.

The law expanded New York’s ban on assault weapons and requires those who already owned the weapons before the law took effect to register them by April 15.

“Compliance numbers with any law should be a matter of public record,” Nojay said.

The Albany Bureau reported in February that the number of pistol permits in New York increased 14 percent between 2011 and 2012 before a gun law’s passage. The data hasn’t been released since.

The records then showed that residents obtained nearly 20,000 pistol permits in 2012, up about 2,500 since 2011.

Tom King, president of the state’s Rifle & Pistol Association, said statistics about gun registrations should be public. The group is suing to have the gun law deemed unconstitutional.

He agreed with Nojay that the state probably hasn’t had much success with gun registrations and therefore doesn’t want to release the information.

“I really think that’s what the story is — not many people have done it, and they, I think, are kind of embarrassed to let people know,” King said.

Cuomo’s office referred questions to state police. State police said it would provide no further comment.

The Journal News was criticized for publishing a map last December of handgun-permit holders’ names and addresses in Westchester and Rockland counties. The map was later removed when the SAFE Act included a provision that allows gun owners to opt out from having their information public.

The Journal News filed requests for the pistol permit data from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties in the wake of the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Westchester and Rockland provided the information, which the newspaper used to publish the Dec. 23 article and interactive map on its website.

Putnam first said it was working to collect the data but, after the map’s publication and the controversy surrounding it, the county denied the newspaper’s request. Initially, County Clerk Dennis Sant said he would not release the information because he believed it would endanger gun owners. Later, he said state law gave him “discretion to deem whether information is going to put my citizens in harm’s way.”

The SAFE Act gave permit holders 120 days to apply to keep their identities private. When the 120-day moratorium expired on May 15, The Journal News filed new FOIL requests seeking the names and addresses of permit holders whose information was still in the public database. Westchester County provided the names on June 7. Putnam again denied the request and in October, the newspaper sued the county to compel the release of the information that remained public.

Rockland County, after months of delays, denied the newspaper’s request. The paper appealed and Deputy County Executive Terry Grosselfinger agreed, saying the information was public and ordered the County Clerk’s Office to release it. Rockland County Clerk Paul Piperato refused earlier this month, a move that stunned Freeman, from the Committee on Open Government.

“A county clerk is elected. He takes an oath to uphold the law and the constitution. (Piperato) is saying, ‘I don’t care what the law says. I’m going to do it my way.’ That is an invitation to chaos,” Freeman said.

The state police database is aimed at keeping track of gun sales and ownership, and specific details about individuals are not public under the law. But Freeman said that doesn’t mean that statistical information should also be kept private.

The database would be used, for example, to determine if a mentally ill person has a gun and also checked to ensure people who have criminal convictions or orders of protections do not possess guns.

The law requires that all firearm licenses be renewed every five years.

The database has had a rocky start. Part of the database that would require background checks for ammunition buyers won’t be operational in mid-January, as first indicated.

Leah Barrett, executive director for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said the state should release statistical details about pistol permits and assault-weapon registrations.

“We just think that there is no harm in letting the people know about the numbers,” she said. “Transparency would be a good thing.”


2 thoughts on “N.Y. won’t release gun law statistics

  1. “Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, Monroe County, said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration doesn’t want to release the data because it would show little compliance with the new gun law.”

    Meaning no one is following it and more people are registering or buying guns than they can confiscate. Just tell it like it is, Andy. There’s no shame in telling the truth.

    “We just think that there is no harm in letting the people know about the numbers,” she said. “Transparency would be a good thing.”

    Oh of course it would be a good thing, if it helps promote the elite’s agenda and their egos. Otherwise, it’s a bad thing. Just ask Barry.

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