Putnam County Clerk Says No to Gun-Info Request

Odell supports decision promising ‘no surrender’

By Kevin E. Foley

Putnam County officialdom rallied behind its long-serving elected county clerk this past Thursday, Jan. 3, as Dennis Sant declared that he would not comply with a Freedom-of-Information-Law request from The Journal News newspaper for the data on registered gun owners in the county, including Philipstown.

Sant’s counterparts in Westchester and Rockland counties have already complied with the Westchester-based Journal News request, and the daily paper has posted the information, including names and addresses, with an interactive map on its lohud.com website.

The Journal News posting has drawn considerable attention and given rise to debates over whether the intent of the law, which makes the information public, is against the privacy rights of gun owners. Protests from gun-rights advocates, law-enforcement officials and individuals among the thousands named on the website have grown in recent days, and the Putnam stand has provided a rallying point.

Dennis Sant, Putnam County clerk, explains his reasons for refusing to release records on gun permits. Behind him, left to right: County Executive MaryEllen Odell, State Sen. Greg Ball and Assemblyman Steve Katz (Photo by K.E. Foley)

Dennis Sant, Putnam County clerk, explains his reasons for refusing to release records on gun permits. Behind him, left to right: County Executive MaryEllen Odell, State Sen. Greg Ball and Assemblyman Steve Katz (Photo by K.E. Foley)

Standing with Sant at a scheduled noon press conference in the old Putnam County Courthouse were County Executive Mary Odell, State Senator Greg Ball and State Assemblyman Steve Katz, all of whom praised Sant for his refusal to provide the information, despite clear-cut state law that it is public information.

The normally staid bureaucratic functions of the clerk’s office were temporarily  bathed by a celebrity spotlight on a man clearly uncomfortable in the role as he stood before a bank of television cameras and the constant whir of flash photographers.

“I follow the rule of law, but I have a conscience and a heart,” declared Sant, who was introduced by Odell.

Sant argued that the law governing the situation was written before the era of social media and that the availability of tools such as Google Maps and Facebook provided a degree of intrusion into neighborhoods and lives not contemplated by lawmakers. “Now you can tell who has a weapon and who doesn’t,” he said.

One of many citizens supporting Dennis Sant's decision; the sign reads: "Legal gun owners are not criminals." (Photo by K.E. Foley)

One of many citizens supporting Dennis Sant’s decision; the sign reads: “Legal gun owners are not criminals.” (Photo by K.E. Foley)

The clerk said he had received over 300 phone calls, many from Rockland and Westchester, saluting his stand and offering anecdotal evidence of the potential damage from release of the information. He said an abused woman with an order of protection had lived for two years in peace and was now receiving threatening phone calls since the release of her address.

“I am refusing this request because I couldn’t live with myself if one of my registered permit holders faced a dangerous situation as a result of releasing the information,” said Sant, who received hearty applause before and after his remarks from a bevy of county officials and employees as well as approximately a dozen citizens attending the event.

Sheriff Donald B. Smith and several members of the county legislature among others were there lending support.

“This issue is strictly about the privacy and safety of law-abiding citizens,” said Odell, who stressed the matter was unrelated to the recent shooting deaths of children and adults in Newton, Conn.

Odell pointed out that Putnam County is home to many retired police, military and other government personnel with registered firearms, and she argued they should not be subjected to public disclosure of their names and addresses in this context.

Anticipating a legal battle with The Journal News, Odell asserted that “we will take this to the very end, wherever it leads us. We are shoulder to shoulder. I will not retreat. I will not surrender.”

For his part, Ball said he was introducing state legislation to amend the law to prohibit journalistic publication of gun-ownership records while allowing law enforcement access to the files. Acknowledging his penchant for hyperbole, Ball declared to Sant, “I will fight with you until hell freezes over, and then we will fight on the ice.”

At press time it was not clear what steps The Journal News might take to counter Sant’s refusal to provide the requested data.

37 thoughts on “Putnam County Clerk Says No to Gun-Info Request

  1. So just who is going to pay for this bizarre refusal to obey the laws of the State of New York? It is the taxpayers of Putnam County! If politicians want to be bombastic, fine, just don’t do it on the taxpayer’s dime. Greg Ball and Mary Ellen Odell should commit to pay all legal costs for this exercise in civil disobedience out of their own pockets. Besides, where in their Oaths of Office does it say anything about getting to pick and choose which laws you got to uphold and which ones you got to ignore?

  2. A local government employee can decide that he doesn’t like a law and simply refuse to obey it? I don’t think so. John Adams put it well: “We are a government of laws, not of men.” A county clerk does not get to apply personal preference and bias in deciding whether to carry out his mandated duty.

    Law-breaking County Clerk Sant should resign immediately.

    County Executive MaryEllen Odell, State Sen. Greg Ball and Assemblyman Steve Katz have acted irresponsibly for supporting willful violations of the law. This will become a shameful part of their records.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with the comments above. They are by far the most sensible posts I’ve read on this topic in the last couple of days. I find it astonishing that these hypocrites would be so blatant about their disregard and contempt for the law. I have been politically active for quite a number of years and have filed many a FOIL request to get information from government officials that they otherwise would not provide. The FOIL is one of the greatest tools that a concerned citizen/taxpayer can have, yet very few people know anything about it.

    Last fall the civic group from Philipstown had Robert Freeman, chairman of the NYS Committee on Open Government, come here to speak about FOIL and the Open Meetings Law. I think that meeting was an eye opener for many. It figures that the County politicos would use any excuse to try and avoid compliance.

  4. Are we really afraid of a “dangerous situation” for “registered permit holders”? The registered permit holders don’t seem to be concerned about the dangerous situation they create for the rest of us. Aurora and Newtown killers used guns belonging to legal gun owners. The Empire State Building killer and Columbine killers were legal gun owners. Permit holders don’t want their names published because they are ashamed, and they should be.

  5. Kudos to Putnam reps for protecting privacy of law-abiding citizens. The Journal News has put retired judges, FBI agents, cops, prosecutors, special ops, corrections officers and battered women (and all their families) at risk and this is not a problem for progressives? Wait until the first environmentalist abuse victim is beaten by an ex-spouse.

  6. Ironic, isn’t it? Gun owners champion their Second Amendment rights, but choose not to abide by the Constitution’s First Amendment.

  7. Odell asserted…”I will not retreat. I will not surrender.” What? Dramatic enough? This is just basic, legal, public information. Stop picking and choosing what law you plan to abide by. This is a disgrace. These sky-is-falling silly quotes come down to this: these electeds took an oath to abide by the law and they are not doing it!

  8. Well, to all those who think that this information is important for all to see. Why? For what good would it be used? Mr. Sant, thank you for using common sense and looking out for your law-abiding citizens.

  9. Raised in a rural community with farms, families routinely stacked rifles and shotguns in hallway corners. No predicting when crows would show up to rip corn sprouts from the ground, woodchucks to feast at the garden or foxes to kill chickens, ducks and turkeys, so guns were at the ready.

    Never a handgun. I am extremely uncomfortable with handguns, especially concealed. I would never permit a child of mine to visit or sleep at home with handguns present. Nor would I permit a visit to a home that kept poisonous snakes even in cages. That something can go wrong, such as unsecured handguns, domestic violence, etc., presents too great a risk for me to accept.

    If a neighbor feels the absolute need to possess a handgun in the home, that is his or her right. However, I would like to know who they are or where they live in order to insure the safety of those I love and have a responsibility to care for. Just asking. Thanks.

  10. Long guns (shotguns and rifles) which were used in Newtown and Aurora would not appear on a map like the one published in the Journal News. There is no reason for the Journal to print names and addresses of pistol permit holders. Many people on the list were deceased, had inactive permits and there was no proof that any of the people with permits even owned handguns and long guns were not included. Irresponsible and inaccurate journalism at it’s best, the map showed nothing and drummed up publicity for a slowly dying newspaper.

    If your neighbor shows up on the map, are you going to move? Ask them to get rid of their gun? Ask them if they have any mentally ill relatives? What action will people take with this information that will make any difference? What type of prevention will happen because of this map?

  11. I always enjoy the preponderance of the elite insisting that their way is the only way. Sheeple… Please… Take steed, dare research and stop looking at the diatribe being fabricated and manipulated by this current administration.

    Has anyone really done any research? Look beyond what the Journal News tabloid and every paper like that prints only one-sided advocacy. There are countless reports and academic studies on what the confiscation of guns did for the citizens of Australia. Crime went up 134 percent. For those who cannot make it to a library, Google or use YouTube. In 1996-1997, “Australia Protests Gun Ban Wake Up American Your’re Next.” “In Australia They Buried Their Guns.” England, our beloved great-great-great-grand parent, has one fifth of the population of the United States and has twice as many murders as the United States. Civilians are not allowed to own fire arms for personal protection.

    I leave it to an agenda-driven sycophants who feel that because a person actually interprets the law in a manner that they do not agree with that they are not complying. Dennis Sant acted in accordance with the law. The FOIL law states and you can ask Mr. Robert Freeman:

    Chapter 87, section 2 part b. “Each agency shall, in accordance with its published rules, make available for public inspection and copying all records, except that such agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that: (b) if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-nine of this article;”

    Chapter 89, 2-a
    “2-a. Nothing in this article shall permit disclosure which constitutes an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy as defined in subdivision two of this section if such disclosure is prohibited under section ninety-six of this chapter.”

    The main theme is “An unwarranted invasion of personal privacy….” Are we good now? Do you get it? It is not about what you want or how uncomfortable it may or may not make you. I am uncomfortable with some of your choices but you do not see me telling you how to live. I do not like your music or how you keep your front yard. I think that everyone should abide by the law and clear the sidewalks of all snow, but that does not happen nor is it enforced. I want my privacy to remain in tact as I am sure that you do.

    Next you will be printing the names of all section 8, public assistance, all those that received public assistance in the last 10 years, all those that are behind in their school and property taxes… oh, that’s already public, but I do not see that being done. It serves no purpose. You can not shame people into giving up their fire arms nor should you. That neighbor could one save you or your family’s life. For you see the criminals know that your house is not protected. You do not lock your doors, nor do you lock your windows. How many in this town lock their cars doors or leave their keys in the car?

    If I want you in my home I will invite you. So for now, keep your elitist paws off and away from my property.

    • “In New York, the names and addresses of handgun owners are public record, per state law and per Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state’s governmental Committee on Open Government.

      ‘There’s not a lot of room for interpretation, in my opinion,’ Freeman said in a phone interview. ‘My hope is that cooler heads will prevail and that the officials in Putnam County will in fact read the law.'”

      I doubt Mr. Freeman could be any clearer than this.

      (Source: L.A. Times)

  12. If the handgun database is incomplete or incorrect, shouldn’t the solution be to bring it up to date — not hide the information from the public? Isn’t one way our society finds out about poor record keeping at government offices by allowing the media access to those records, and by allowing them to be made public so individuals can check them for themselves? (Think of property tax records and the way errors in it are fixed.)

    Also, if the database does not include owners of assault weapons, and that is something parents would like to know before permitting their kids to sleep overnight at a neighbor’s house, why not add owners of assault weapons to the list? Why is it people can buy assault weapons at gun shows without a permit, and without a background check, and without fear of being on a publicly accessible database? One of the scandals of our time is the way Congress has stripped the funding from the agencies that enforce what few gun laws we have, money that could make our gun ownership databases accurate and very useful. And, yes, maybe I would speak with a neighbor with a troubled son or daughter if I were aware they had handguns in the house. Maybe I would be more likely to call the situation to the attention of the police. Wouldn’t you?

  13. Agreeing with Mr. Phillips and Ms Valentine. What good can come out of publishing the names of legal gun owners? How does this blatant attack on legal gun owners help remove unregistered firearms from the hands of criminals? How about they spend their time attacking the movie and video game industry. They are the real miscreants. Their constant portrayal of murder and violence has led to the loss of value for human life. It has desensitized an entire generation to death, blood and violence.

  14. Mike Armstrong has a good point. Update the data! Maybe the Putnam County Clerk does not want to release the data because it reveals what a poor job he has done in maintaining its accuracy.

  15. Mr. Phillips and Mr. Bardes ask an important question — “What good can come out of publishing the names of legal gun owners?”

    Dick Weissbrod gives one reason — so that parents can make informed choices about whether to allow their children to stay overnight at the homes of neighbors, when the parents object to their children being in homes where handguns are kept. Other good reasons include:

    1) it would give employers access to important information either about prospective employees or a current employee (say, one who was under some stress on the job), information that could save lives — as we know from workplace shootings

    2) It would give schools access to important information about the home environment of pupils, to help with any intervention, as we know from the Newtown incident.

    3) It would give home buyers important information about their prospective neighbors and their neighborhood, to make better choices on where to live.

    4) It would give police officers and firefighters information about risks they make be facing in responding to an emergency call, as we know from the incident in Webster, NY.

    Gun owners do not see themselves creating a danger in their neighborhoods, and find it very hard to understand why others see things differently. But please respect the rights of those who do see handguns and assault weapons as dangerous, who read the statistics on suicides and gun accidents involving children and believe — not without reason — that they would prefer their children not have access to guns.

  16. If you don’t feel your neighbors are responsible, your children shouldn’t be at or in their homes whether they have guns or not. If they are responsible people (and gun owners), they would supervise children properly and guns being in the home would be a non-issue as they would be properly locked and secured.

    1. Now employers should be able to use this information to decide employment? Sounds like discrimination to me. If a current employee is under stress at the job, employers should address this issue with or without the knowledge of gun ownership, as workplace safety should be a priority.

    2. This map is useless in regards to the Newtown massacre. The guns used would not have been registered with the County and would not appear on the map, and since Adam Lanza was not a current pupil the schools wouldn’t have had a reason for intervention.

    3. I’m sure inner city areas don’t have many pinpoints on the map, but I’d be willing to bet there are plenty of handguns on the streets. Map is useless in this respect as well.

    4. Again, the guns used in Webster were long guns, meaning they wouldn’t appear on the map.

    Responsible gun owners are not the problem, guns aren’t the problem. As the old saying goes: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

    Blaming the guns for the mass murders, homicides and “hunting accidents” is not the solution. At the end of the day, a person had to pull the trigger. Untreated mentally ill people are the problem, as most of them do not believe they are sick. It is almost impossible to force a mentally ill person to seek help once they are over the age of 18, leaving many parents, friends and family helpless.

    Stop crucifying the gun owners and let’s start figuring out a way to get help for the many people who are one step away from the edge. If James Holmes or Adam Lanza had been properly treated for their mental illnesses, we probably wouldn’t even know their names, nor would we be having this conversation.

    • It appears that prescription medication may have played a part in many of these massacres including the recent shootings in Connecticut. There are published articles revealing that virtually all of the perpetrators were on some kind of drugs including anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and even the meds given for ADD which are very close to amphetamines. These medications have very serious side effects and are routinely recommended especially for young men and boys who exhibit behavioral problems. Over medication of our youth is a much bigger problem than gun control in my opinion.

      • I agree that those monsters responsible for mass shootings likely struggle with mental illness. What I don’t understand is why is it so easy for them to obtain weapons–and so many of them–in the first place?

  17. The bottom line when it comes to children’s safety in other people’s homes – as a parent it is your responsibility to know the people you are entrusting your children to. If you need to know if someone owns a gun, ask. If you don’t trust them to tell you the truth, you probably shouldn’t trust your children with them anyway.

  18. If “elitist” means “I don’t want 11 dum-dum bullets in my child’s face,” I embrace that label. This isn’t a theoretical argument. We have mass murders here, and I don’t care if it is better or worse than whatever country, it is still too many. I don’t know what name-calling gets you, except to distract from deadly serious issues. And your research is wrong.

  19. In reply to Antonia Valentine: Your argument that neighbors are either responsible or irresponsible and if they are responsible guns are not a problem fails when tested against common experience. Life is never so black and white, and we all know it. People who are responsible lapse from time to time. They get tired, forgetful, sick, or distracted. People who are generally responsible forget to lock up their guns (they may even forget they have them at all) and the kids play with them and someone gets hurt. It happens all the time.

    Yes, if an employer chose not to hire someone because they owned guns, it would be discrimination. It would not, however, be illegal. When hiring, employers must discriminate between candidates, or they would be failing in their obligations to company owners to pick the best person for the job. The law prohibits choices on the basis of certain kinds of discrimination — for example, race, or religion, but clearly permits others, such as on the basis of a credit rating or big hair. In fact, it is entirely possible the employer could hire someone (for, say a security guard position) once confirming they owned guns, by checking the database.

    Your argument that “the map would not have been helpful” supposes that a database could not be built to cover– and make available to the authorities — information about the kinds of gun ownership that would be helpful. Don’t use the currently underfunded database limited to handgun owners as the standard of what could be useful when we are trying to find solutions.

    Yes, inner city neighborhoods have a lot of unregistered handguns — a big problem. The information would have to be used with some basic common sense, the same as any information. This does not mean that such data would not be helpful to potential home buyers looking in areas where it is not clear whether or not neighbors tend to pack heat.

    And yes, the guns in Webster were long guns — and registration should have covered them.

    Guns are the problem. People are the same the world over, but where you get very high rates of homicide and suicide, over and over you find widespread ownership of guns. Close to home, the easy access to guns has made suicide of ex-military personnel with PTSD an unspeakable national tragedy.

    Please don’t describe open discussion of changes in our gun policies as “crucifying gun owners.” The Newtown tragedy demands one thing of us and one thing only: that we take this seriously — so seriously that we refuse to shout the old slogans and instead think hard and honestly about guns in our communities.

    To Patty Villanova — you make an excellent point about drug use. It is a problem that should be addressed. That does not take away from the need to find solutions to the gun problem in our country. As a country, we are not so feeble that we can’t tackle both problems and fix them.

    To George Robb: Please avoid name calling (such as “sheeple,” “agenda-driven sycophants”), since it leaves me — and perhaps others — with the impression you cannot consider issues calmly and reasonably (a worry, by the way, when the topic is guns). Mr. Freeman was recently quoted in the New York Times saying that the law requiring public disclosure of the names and addresses of gun owners in New York is unambiguous.

    • Mr Armstrong – I am using the “currently underfunded database limited to handgun owners as the standard” because the argument here is that Putnam County refused to turn over the information to contribute to said “underfunded database.” This did not start out as an issue of gun control, it started as a refusal. If Putnam County handed over the records they have, they would be contributing more information to an outdated and inaccurate map.

      My point is merely that long guns are the issue, yet the Journal News is publishing a map of pistol owners. Why? They are just attempting to sell more papers. The map has no relevance to the Newtown, Aurora and Webster shootings.

      My prior responses were merely examples as to why the map should not be publicly available – it serves no realistic purpose in it’s current state.

      Whether you or I agree on the current gun laws is irrelevant to Putnam’s decision to hold back information on a FOIL request. I do see safety issues with releasing the names of the people who do and do not own guns, no matter how inaccurate or accurate the database may be. Politicians make decisions like this all the time – it’s how many laws have been changed.

      • To my knowledge, the County has not argued that their data on handgun owners is inaccurate and incomplete — that would suggest that their oversight of legally mandated record keeping has fallen short. If so, it would be convenient to refuse to expose the rotten data to the light of day.

        You believe that the problem is just long guns, based on the horrific tragedies we endured last year alone. Others, including, apparently, the Journal News, take the view that all guns are a reason for concern, long guns, handguns, assault rifles. It seemed reasonable to the Journal News, and it seems reasonable to me, that if the only information that is available about guns is limited to handguns, publish that and don’t wait years until licensing is finally required and a database of assault weapon owners can be built. Partial information is better than none, provided those using it understand its limitations.

        In responding to FOIL requests, governments routinely remove information that could create significant hazards for specific individuals. Working out a fair and strictly limited way of doing that for registered gun owners, probably related to specific protection programs for individuals, would be a reasonable response: a blanket prohibition on publishing the names and addresses of gun owners is not.

        To argue, as the County has, that making public such lists exposes gun owners to marketing efforts (“…if such lists would be used for solicitation or fund-raising purposes”) is just silly. I am not persuaded that knowing someone has a gun will inspire a criminal to undertake a home invasion, or deter them (by the way, which is it? — more likely or less likely to try to break in? — I’ve heard it both ways).

        There are many public benefits to making available information on who owns guns and where they live. Letting in a little sunshine is always a good first step to curing much bigger problems.

  20. I’ve got to speak up as one of those “sheeple” that Mr. Robb refers to. Aaron, you stated that his “research” (which I think must have been a quick sweep of the Fox news database) is wrong. Mr. Robb, since Australians turned in their semi-automatic weapons–for cash, by the way–and since they’ve overhauled their gun laws there has not been one mass shooting and there had been many before that. Furthermore gun deaths are down by 50 percent.

    Don’t know where you got that “crime up by 134 percent” statistic but if by that you mean kids are stealing more bubble gum I’ll take that over the myriad mass shootings we’ve seen, but that’s obviously a fact chosen to obfuscate the incredible success of the Australian model. Yes, we should look to Australia–a relatively new country of pioneers and hunters who love their guns and are still allowed responsible ownership and again, have had no mass shootings since 1996. Please, call me an elitist for saying this.

  21. As a fan of old Westerns I was recently watching Rio Bravo. In the film the sheriff declares and enforces a no guns policy in town. As a representitive of of the local government, he was trying to control gun violence in Rio Bravo. The sheriff was portrayed by that icon of American masculinity John Wayne. The Duke in favor of gun
    control! Who woulda thunk? Wonder what the Duke would think of Americans for Responsible Solutions?

  22. Is the Journal News’s map of handgun permit holders relevant to the gun control debate? Absolutely. It powerfully illustrates the enormous number of handguns already in our communities. It does this in a way no essay could. If you have not yet clicked the link in the story above, please do it. Use it to walk the virtual streets of Westchester and Rockland, and see how many names appear. And think of the shotgun and rifle owners that don’t appear on the list. The effect is that I’m shocked and depressed about just how many guns are already out there.

    Far from being irrelevant to the gun control discussion, the map is the most powerful statement yet for illustrating the sick addiction our country has to weapons.

  23. This debate is reminding me of the time when NYS public teacher salary information was made accessible by a conservative think tank, The Manhattan Institute. I will bet that those that were for the dissemination of that information, then screaming that it was a matter of public record…. are those same very people that are today screaming that it is dangerous to disseminate gun permit information, public record or not. If it is public record, it is public. You cannot pick and choose.

  24. It frustrates me that the gun law conversation has devolved into insults and finger pointing. One side equates the reform of gun laws with confiscation and totalitarian government while the other side tends to see all gun owners as wild west bandits. Neither is accurate.

    I ask two questions of both camps: (1) Are our gun laws, as they currently stand, working well for us as a society? (2) Would you be motivated to reform a national state of affairs that leads to 15,000 deaths each year?

    All the rest is peripheral argument. Let’s reform the laws to protect our society, not attack each other for our viewpoints.

    In my life, I’ve attended three open-casket funerals for teenagers who died due to accidental gunshot wounds. That’s three too many.

  25. I probably shouldn’t bring this up, as it’s probably too inflammatory, but guns have three purposes: to intimidate, to wound, and to kill. (OK, you can use them for target practice, too. Four.) So I wonder why so many people feel the need to have a tool for the purpose of intimidating, wounding or killing.

    We live in a society in which, as a result of public policy and business practice, mental health care is poorly available and people who seek it are often stigmatized. We live in a world in which many people – even clinically sane ones – are mean and violent, for whatever reason. And we live in a country in which, as a result of public policy, virtually anyone can get a gun and ammunition virtually anywhere, any time.

    The situation suggests that we have intentionally created a society in which we must live in a permanent state of anxiety, and cannot trust each other, and some of us feel compelled to carry weapons. What a dumb intention, if that was the case!

    Obviously, there really are bad guys. Some have guns. Some have fists, or knives; some have corporations, or degrees, or fancy job titles. Or computers. Some just have big mouths and angry faces (and some of those have radio or TV shows…). But I suspect that having a gun is not a solution to the problems of evil, or mental illness, or poverty, or oppressive government, or what have you. As Michael Armstrong points out, even super-responsible people have lapses or bad days. And not everyone is that responsible, honestly.

    And really: in what world do bad guys obligingly tip you off that their intentions are bad AND give you time to get your gun ready? If you’re going about your business and a bad guy starts doing something bad, can you really identify and analyze the threat, and safely neutralize it with your gun without shooting, say, the young mother who strolled in the way because she didn’t yet know something bad was going on, or the police officer who’s running to confront and control the bad guy? What if the bad guy takes your gun and uses it on you, since you weren’t fast enough or well enough trained to prevent that? Or if you were fast and well-trained enough, what if you were having a bad day?

    No, guns do not have volition, and do not kill people. People use guns to kill people, and guns are a very efficient tool for doing so. The widespread availability of so many guns poses a catastrophic public health risk, at a minimum. I hope that many gun owners are giving thought to the risk that the guns they own may present to those around them, and to the greater risk that having guns be easily available and poorly regulated, as is the case now, poses to all of us.

    That said: The Journal News’s article and County Clerk Sant have brought this set of issues up for discussion, and we all have a civic duty to discuss the issues seriously and realistically AND CALMLY, and choose a course of action that reduces the risk of gun violence. Please – be sane, and be nice.

  26. I don’t own a gun, I don’t plan on ever owning a gun and the only time I’ve ever shot one was with the Scouts as a kid.

    Having said that, FOIL or no FOIL, I am worried about the unintended consequences that have resulted. If reports are to be believed, legal gun owners with previously unlisted numbers/addresses (victims of stalking, messy divorce, abusive relationships, etc) are now exposed. Addresses of legal gun owners that are current or former law enforcement or corrections officers are also now exposed to those they may have had dealings with in the past.

    It was misleading, dangerous and irresponsible of the Journal News to have published this much information, in this format and at this level of detail. They could have went about this and proven their point without providing the actual names and addresses. A simple map with all the red dots on it would provide a very striking perspective without providing a roadmap to those who would use the name and address information for less than honorable purposes.

    Finally I have no problem with authorities having access to the personal information in such a database or tool. I would hope they have access to this in some form already. But to have this as a public tool for everyone to make playdate decisions or decisions on who they choose to socialize with is *way* over the top.

    Do I have the right to a database of all households that have members with a history of mental illness? With a history of alcohol or drug use? With current users of certain prescription drugs? This is a very slippery slope.

    I’m sorry, but there are different ways to go about this very timely and relevant debate on guns without naming and shaming law abiding citizens and putting some of them at risk. The Journal News should redact the personal information from this map if they plan on keeping it up.

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment. If there are names and addresses in the database of gun owners that should not — for moral reasons — be made public (and I agree it is very likely there are), we need to ask ourselves who is responsible for redacting those names? Clearly, it has to be Putnam County, the government agency responsible for keeping the list.

      Newspapers routinely get FOILed information that has some things taken out — and may well have believed that any redactions in the interest of public safety had already been made in the lists they received from Orange and Westchester (do we really know for sure they were not?). Because there may be a few names on Putnam’s list that should not be made public, it doesn’t follow that the rest of the names should not be made public. The public interest in making it possible for people to know whether dangerous weapons are present in a residence seems to me to be a strong one, and certainly outweigh’s the gun-owner’s fear of being ostracized by neighbors. Hundreds of children are killed every year on playdates at places where guns are kept. Do those lives count for so little?

      I’m not sure I follow the argument that naming the owners of guns is an effort to shame them. Many gun owners, perhaps most, seem proud of their gun ownership, and take it as a badge of honor, not shame. So how, exactly, is being on a list of gun owners going to embarrass them?

  27. Legal gun ownership is personal and private for many, as it is not for others. For you or anyone to pontificate that this is for the greater good is self serving. There is no moral ground here nor a moral argument. Your behaviour and line of thinking is what is immoral.

    Mr. Campanile makes a rational argument that I can support as does Antonia Valentine. The only thing that is “elitest” is the belief that somehow releasing these names will result in some good. Please out a sign that says you do not own a firearm. Place it out on 9D, then at the entrance to your street with an arrow, then with glitter as you arrive at your home. What will happen when someone dies as a result of this massive irresponsibility?

    Let us see how long it takes for you and your family to feel uncomfortable. Hey, you’re a card-carrying member of the Beacon Fire Company, no one will care. Some might even stand beside you.

    FOIL Law – chapter 87, section 2 part b. “Each agency shall, in accordance with its published rules, make available for public inspection and copying all records, except that such agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that: (b) if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-nine of this article;”

    Chapter 89, 2-a: “2-a. Nothing in this article shall permit disclosure which constitutes an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy as defined in subdivision two of this section if such disclosure is prohibited under section ninety-six of this chapter.”

    As for those that think I am name calling… People, “elitest” or “sheeple” is a mere description. No name calling. Would you prefer “progressive modernists idealoques”? This is a lot of hysteria designed to insight and inflame all the way from a president who is clear on his agenda to the “sheeple” who press his agenda. Why are people not more concerned with the mental-health issues facing this country, and community? Just look at some of the leadership. How many times have you said “that guy or gal is nuts”?

    Crime rate in Australia is indeed up over 134 percent. Murder by firearm may be down, but murder by other methods are up. Assaults, burglaries, attacks of all kinds are all up. Saying that people volunteered to turn in their firearms is a farce. They were ordered to. When you are ordered to, it is a confiscation. I do not care if $1 was provided in lieu of the firearm. The $1 only made the transaction appear to be mutual on the surface. Remember that a taking is a taking no matter how you cloak it.

    • America is a great nation. We are a generous, big-hearted people. What I find most troubling about Mr. Robb’s response is that he invites me, invites us all, to join him in his fearfulness, to be afraid. Can anything be more contrary to the spirit of this country?

      We hear all the time about the “slippery slope,” how even denying madmen access to the most terrible weapons will open the door to some sort of government oppression. But if the Second Amendment requires us to allow the mentally ill, terrorists and criminals to buy assault rifles, no questions asked, then clearly it should be repealed. Isn’t that the real “slippery slope,” to demand such an extreme interpretation of the law that it turns our Constitution into a kind of suicide pact? Isn’t that what we should be afraid of?

      This gun sickness – this slippery slope of acquiescence to ever-more powerful, ever-more available, weapons for personal use without any restrictions – is having the same effect on us that slavery had on the Old South. The slave owners, too, were afraid – very afraid.

  28. Murder isn’t up, crime is. There’s a difference. Again, no mass shootings in Australia in the past 17 years. Gun deaths down by 50 percent. Facts, are pesky things and sometimes stand in the way of the arguments one tries to make. Also, facts like being offered $1 for a gun is rather interesting. What is the source on that? I haven’t been able to find it anywhere. I’m just a sheep, and an elitist sheep at that, but I’d say there’s a difference between confiscation and a citizen showing up with a gun and leaving with money in your hand in order to comply with a new law.

  29. Since the Newtown massacre, there have been a quite a lot of American gun deaths, and American gun sales are booming. I understand that gun sales have increased because gun enthusiasts fear that they will be forbidden to buy guns, or that their guns will be taken away. I have not heard that the average gun buyer plans to help defend his local school, and I have not heard anyone say that we need to actually fund mental health care and make it widely available and stigma-free. Nor have I heard any gun enthusiasts support measures to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people, such as increased background checks, longer waiting periods, closing private gun sales, or maintaining an up-to-date and complete gun database.

    There is a great opportunity for the NRA and other gun-related organizations to put their money where their mouth is and support mental health care, both by funding it directly and supporting laws that make it available.

    There is also a great opportunity for the population as a whole to find ways to keep ourselves safe that do not depend on arming ourselves heavily. Perhaps the NRA would like to investigate that as well?

    Or perhaps we have to conclude that we as a nation are mentally ill, since we make and buy so many guns, refuse reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, claim that the Second Amendment unambiguously grants a universal right to individuals to bear any arms we want for any reason we want, yet we won’t care for our mentally ill, to say nothing of our hungry, our homeless, or our children. We won’t adequately fund police, firefighters, hospitals, schools, and the way we choose to deal with the obvious consequences of our lousy social hygiene is to get guns. Yes, I think we just might be insane as a society.

  30. The new New York gun control law, just enacted, includes a provision allowing gun permit holders to ask the clerk or police department to remove their names and addresses from the permit database. See NYT story.