Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Gun Licensees and Privacy in the Empire State

Monday, August 3, 2020

Gun Licensees and Privacy in the Empire State

The Daily News, a New York City newspaper, recently filed a lawsuit to compel the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and licensing officials to release the full names, the type of license, and the residential zip codes of individuals who had been issued a firearm license or renewal in 2018, and who had not been granted an exemption from disclosure.

According to the complaint, the proceeding arises out of the newspaper’s “ongoing commitment to quality public affairs journalism on issues including crime, gun control and policing. In particular, reporting about firearm licensing informs the public debate on critically important issues like gun control, gun rights and the scourge of gun violence in America…”The complaint fails to indicate how this information will be used, apart from ruling out “any commercial purpose or solicitation.”

The NYPD provided 132 names but resisted further disclosure citing operational, invasion of privacy, and other reasons. Police officials filed affidavits testifying that, due to safety concerns, officers’ residential addresses and other personal information are never disclosed to the public. One affidavit referred to the case of Victor Kingsley, who attempted to send an explosive device to an NYPD officer after finding incomplete personal information about the officer in internet searches. The device was delivered to a neighbor, who was killed. 

On July 21, Judge Arthur Engoron ordered the NYPD to release the information. In the absence of an exemption from disclosure, the NYPD was required to provide “the name, zip code, and license category of all those to whom it granted a new or renewal license during Calendar Year 2018. This information covers all licensees who applied prior to Calendar Year 2018 but were granted a license during that year.”It included retired police officers, although the NYPD could withhold their names (but not zip code or license type) under a separate law shielding the “name or home address of a beneficiary of a public employees’ retirement system or of an applicant for appointment to public employment.”

It is hard to see how the release of personal information about individual licensees is necessary to inform the “debate on critically important issues”like gun control, gun rights, and crime. New York State has extremely strict requirements on obtaining and maintaining a firearm license, and New York City arguably has the most restrictive gun control in the United States. John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, who has researched the question extensively, notes that “[i]n  state after state, the data show that permit holders are extremely law-abiding, even relative to police officers,”making it very unlikely that licensees are driving crime or lawlessness in New York City or elsewhere.

Gun owners in the Empire State already have first-hand experience of what happens upon public disclosure of their private information.

In December 2012, a New York State newspaper, the Westchester County Journal News, obtained the names and addresses of gun license holders in Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties using the public records laws, and published the information as an interactive online map. According to one source, the map “received more views than any other article in the paper’s history”and was widely shared over social media. One likely reason was that the map allegedly pinpointed the homes of “police officers, judges, battered women and ‘guys that did some undercover drug work’”to anyone with an interest in finding these people.

Janet Hasson, the then-publisher and president, maintained that public exposure of citizens who chose to exercise their constitutional rights was responsible journalism because one of the “core missions [of] a newspaper is to empower our readers with as much information as possible on the critical issues they face, and guns have certainly become a top issue.”

This “core mission”apparently didn’t extend to making sure the “empowering”information was accurate. It emerged (here and here) that one county’s “permits listed on the map were as much as 25 percent outdated,”with an estimated 2,500 or more incorrect locations flagged on the map. An interior design business inaccurately identified as the location of a licensee sued. Other fallout included correctional officers and their families being threatened and harassed after inmates identified officers listed on the map. Two homes on the map were burglarized; guns were stolen or gun safes targeted. The newspaper reportedly lost thousands of subscribers outraged over the invasion of privacy.

The intense public outcry also prompted a change in the law. A month after the map’s publication, New York State amended the law on the disclosure of personal information in license applications or renewals. While the names and addresses of applicants remain a public record by default, N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(5)(b) and (c) now allows an applicant to “request”an exemption from disclosure because disclosure could endanger the person’s life or safety, or result in “unwarranted harassment.”(New York State licensees may apply at any time for an exemption from disclosure by submitting the request form at their local licensing office.)    

As with the infamous map of 2012, publication of licensees’ personal information under this court order serves no public interest and will likely expose responsible gun owners and their families to a heightened risk of crimes and fear of harassment. Given the amount of information already available online, enterprising criminals or anti-gun doxxers will have little trouble in identifying some licensees using a full name and zip code.

At the very least, Rocco Parascandola, the reporter who initiated the records request, already has reason to believe the apprehensions police officers had raised in the case. According to a July 29 story he wrote for the Daily News, an unoccupied NYPD patrol car parked in the street was deliberately set on fire by an unknown person. “The incident brings to at least 304 the number of department vehicles damaged or vandalized”over the last two months. Concerns over further violent acts have prompted the NYPD to send out an “internal alert telling cops in all commands to take steps to ward off attacks on police facilities and vehicles.”

TRENDING NOW
California Using Tax Dollars to Racially Profile Gun Owners

News  

Monday, August 15, 2022

California Using Tax Dollars to Racially Profile Gun Owners

California gun owners have been under siege for the past year - even by the not-so-Golden State’s standards. In September 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB-173, which allows for the disclosure of highly sensitive ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Supreme Court Signals It May Rein In Federal Rulemakers

News  

Monday, August 8, 2022

Supreme Court Signals It May Rein In Federal Rulemakers

While most of the attention from the end of the United States Supreme Court’s last term focused on several landmark cases, including a major win for gun owners in the NRA-supported case New York State Rifle ...

Canada’s Liberals Bypass Parliament to Further Gun Control Agenda

News  

Monday, August 15, 2022

Canada’s Liberals Bypass Parliament to Further Gun Control Agenda

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced Bill C-21, proposing a permanent freeze on the sale, transfer and import of handguns in Canada. The bill remains at the initial stages and did not pass prior to ...

California: Appropriations Committees Pass Anti-Gun Bills to Floor

Friday, August 12, 2022

California: Appropriations Committees Pass Anti-Gun Bills to Floor

Yesterday, the Appropriations Committees of both chambers considered bills previously placed on the suspense file. SB 505, which would have required gun owners to carry insurance and held them strictly civilly liable, was held in committee, while the ...

Oregon: Faulty Gun Control Ballot Measure Summary Approved

Friday, August 12, 2022

Oregon: Faulty Gun Control Ballot Measure Summary Approved

This week, the Explanatory Statement Committee approved Ballot Measure 114’s (formerly IP 17) summary that will appear in the voter pamphlet.

When Seconds Count, the Police are Only Hours Away

News  

Monday, August 8, 2022

When Seconds Count, the Police are Only Hours Away

After violent unrest and looting in 2020 that Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot admitted had “spread like wildfire” throughout parts of Chicago, the mayor nonetheless “urged Chicagoans not to take matters into their own hands in this concealed ...

Another Good Guy with a Gun Stops the Bad Guy

News  

Monday, July 25, 2022

Another Good Guy with a Gun Stops the Bad Guy

On July 19, 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken was shopping with his girlfriend at the Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood, Ind. when a gunman armed with a rifle opened fire in the food court. Upon witnessing the ...

House-Passed Gun Ban Shows the Importance of the Election This November

News  

Monday, August 1, 2022

House-Passed Gun Ban Shows the Importance of the Election This November

On Friday, after a last-minute rule change to allow its consideration, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1808.

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

News  

Friday, April 1, 2022

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

Half the country will now enjoy the freedom to carry a handgun for self-defense without a permit from the state thanks to the tireless efforts of men and women of the National Rifle Association. 

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.