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Court Says NYPD Can Deny NY Times’ Request for Gun Owner Data

On Tuesday, the Appellate Division, First Department ruled that the NYPD was under no obligation to hand over gun owner data to the media and NYPD had the right to deny requests for such information under the privacy and safety exemptions to the state’s public records law.

The order was given in response to the appeal rising from a petition NY Times had originally brought against the NYPD in 2010. A trial court judge had approved the Article 78 petition and ordered release of the information in 2011. The New York City Police Department appealed the decision. On Tuesday, the appeals court reversed the decision of the trial court judge.

People are of the opinion that in ordinary course of things, the matter may have passed notice and greater scrutiny, but the recent release of gun owner records by a New York newspaper with an online map and names and addresses in December, just after the Newtown shootings, had soured the situation.

The map had caused gun owners and enthusiasts to criticize the action and accuse that the newspaper was endangering residents by such public posting of gun owners’ information. Following the outcry, in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law in which, among gun control restrictions, there was a provision that allowed gun owners to choose not to enter their names and addresses in state databases.

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In Tuesday’s ruling, the First Department found that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jane Solomon had erred while ordering NYPD to hand over gun owner data to the NY Times. The court observed that the NYPD had already handed over the zip codes of gun permit holders, and revealing further information would not further serve the freedom of information law in the state.

The First Department also reversed Solomon’s ruling that required the NYPD to hand over to NY Times, a list of all hate crimes reported since 2005, including the addresses of occurrence. The court said that such an action would violate the privacy of hate crime victims and endanger them.

The case is In re New York Times Company v. City of New York Police Department, Appellate Division, First Department, No. 7994.

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