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February 2013 Column - Opt-out option protects pistol permit holders’ information


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oneilj - Posted on 12 February 2013

A statute in the “NY Safe Act,” recently imposed by the Governor and New York State legislators, addresses the issue of pistol permit holders’ information being a matter of public record by allowing permit holders to protect their information.

 

Under former NYS law, any person could request a list of all county pistol permit holders’ information, including name and address. The issue of that provision came to light shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy when a downstate newspaper obtained a list of permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties, created an interactive map, and pinpointed every gun owner in those counties. The ramifications of that information being printed in a very public manner are numerous. It not only put law abiding gun owners at risk of being robbed for their firearm, it in turn highlighted homeowners who didn’t have a permit, potentially making them a target for crime. Having knowledge that a home is probably unarmed would make it more appealing. Not only were private citizens made targets, but police officers, judges, correctional officers and others, had their name and address printed, seriously endangering their families and themselves.

 

Soon after, The Buffalo News requested that the Erie County Clerk provide them the list of Erie County pistol permit holders’ information, a request that brought great concern to me as I worried about the safety of those I am elected to serve. My colleague Legislator Joseph Lorigo immediately drafted a resolution, which I co-sponsored, that requested the county clerk withhold the release of those names. I pledged my full support to the initiative and the measure was approved unanimously at the next session.

 

I was pleased to see our county clerk and the entire legislature take a stand for the safety of Erie County residents, knowing that if that information were made public that we could be dealing with a life and death situation.

 

Pistol permit holders can now take matters into their own hands and request that their information be kept private. By completing the “opt-out” form, residents stop the release of their information.

 

Initial reports state that pistol permit holders can begin completing the opt-out forms on Feb. 15. Erie County is assisting permit holders with the process by hosting a webpage, www.erie.gov/optout, that allows anyone interested in receiving the opt-out form to register their email address with the county. When the form becomes available, the county will immediately email the form to all registrants who have signed up. Pistol permit holders have 60 days after the form is made available to submit completed forms to the Clerk’s Office. Forms must be printed, completed and returned to the County Clerk, c/o Pistol Permit Office, 92 Franklin Street, Buffalo, NY 14202.

 

Anyone with questions or concerns about the opt-out form is encouraged to contact my office at 858-8850 or email john.mills@erie.gov.