New York allows pistol owners to conceal names

New York residents who hold pistol permits can now ask to have their names removed from public records.

Story highlights

  • New York now lets pistol permit holders remove their names from public records
  • It's part of a gun-control bill passed in January
  • A newspaper published the names of handgun owners in two counties in December

Concealed weapon? Check. Concealed identity? Check.

New York residents who hold pistol permits can now ask to have their names removed from public records -- an option included in the gun-control law passed after the December massacre at a school in neighboring Connecticut.

Forms allowing handgun owners to request that their personal information be kept private are now posted on the New York State Police website. If approved, owners' names, addresses and permit numbers would be withheld from the public record and exempted from the state Freedom of Information Law.

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Handgun owners will have to provide a reason for why they want their personal information withheld, particularly why their life or safety may be endangered or how they may be subjected to unwarranted harassment by the disclosure of their information. Law enforcement agencies would still have access to the records, but the general public wouldn't, State Police Sgt. James Sherman said.

But "unless someone is lying on the form or has misrepresented their information in some way, their request will be granted," Sherman said.

New York requires a permit to carry a concealed weapon or to keep a pistol in the home, and the exemption applies to both types of licenses. The privacy measure was part of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, which bans ammunition magazines that hold more than seven rounds and requires instant background checks for all ammunition purchases.

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It became law after The Journal News, a suburban New York newspaper, published an online, interactive map showing the names and addresses of all handgun permit-holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. The map, published in December, infuriated many readers and prompted a blogger to post the names and addresses of Journal News staffers in retaliation.

The Journal News removed its online map 27 days later, stating that the removal was "not a concession to critics" but that the map had served its purpose. The paper's publisher, Janet Hasson, defended the decision to report the information.

"One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular," Hasson said in a statement. "We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings."

Pistol permit information is now exempt from the Freedom of Information Law until May 15. Permit holders have until then to submit privacy requests to keep that exemption. Forms filled out after May 15 will still be considered, but their information may be subject to FOIL in the meantime, and applications for new permits will have the option to keep their personal information under wraps as well.

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