By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — Gun owners have until May 15 to file paperwork to ensure personal information recorded on their pistol permits cannot be disclosed to the public.
County clerks have forms available that will block the release of personal data should a Freedom of Information request be made.
Concern has increased about disclosure of a gun owner’s name, address and the number and type of weapons kept in their homes since New York state recently adopted the Safe Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE Act) law.
A downstate newspaper obtained a list of gun owners in its county and published the information and an interactive map on the Internet, causing an outcry among gun owners about their privacy and Second Amendment rights.
Unless paperwork is filed to block release of personal information, all pistol-permit data is subject to public disclosure after May 15 under the new law.
Acting Franklin County Clerk Kip Cassavaw said his office has taken applications from about 500 of the county’s 6,500 pistol-permit holders and that they are then forwarded to County, Family and Surrogate Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr. for review.
The judge said recently that “if the form is correctly filled out, all of the exemption requests will be granted. That is what the law provides.”
Cassavaw said his office doesn’t know answers to some of the questions gun owners are asking.
The state “didn’t give us any forms or guidance,” he said. “We don’t have the answers. And it’s not the staff’s fault. It’s the SAFE Act’s fault.”
WAITING PERIOD LONGER
He said there has also been a four-fold increase in the number of pistol-permit applications made to his office and that the usual six-to-nine-month waiting period has now increased to more like 12 to 18 months before the entire approval process is finished.
“We’re the paper shufflers,” Cassavaw said. “The judge is the licensing officer. He makes the decision, not my staff.”
He said one positive outcome from the SAFE Act is that County Clerk’s Office records are being made current because pistol-permit holders who have not updated their data for perhaps decades are providing revised addresses and lists of new weapons purchased but not entered on their existing permits.
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Under the New York state penal law, those filing for a state firearms-license public-records exemption must state the grounds under which they want pistol-permit information withheld from disclosure. Those grounds include:
▶ If the permit holder's life or safety may be endangered because they are an active or retired police, peace, probation, parole or corrections officer; a person protected under a valid order of protection; a current or past witness to a crime involving a criminal charge; or a participant or previous participant as a juror on a criminal case or who sat on a grand jury.
▶ If the permit holder's life or the life and safety of a spouse, domestic partner or household member may be endangered by disclosure of the information for another reason besides what is outlined above.
▶ If they are the spouse, domestic partner or household member of an active or retired police, peace, probation, parole or corrections officer; a person protected under a valid order of protection; a current or past witness to a crime involving a criminal charge; or a participant or previous participant as a juror on a criminal case or who sat on a grand jury.
▶ They may be the subject of unwarranted harassment if such information is disclosed.