NY Paper Publishes Database of Handgun Permits…Chaos Ensues

The saga of the Journal News database of gun permits continues to make headlines, so I thought I’d bring a few of the latest to the blog…

A newspaper based in White Plains that drew nationwide anger after publishing the names and addresses of handgun permit holders last month is being guarded by armed security personnel at two of its offices, the publisher said Wednesday.

The increased security comes as the newspaper, The Journal News, has promised to forge ahead with plans to expand its interactive map of permit holders to include a third county in the suburbs of New York City, and local officials there have vowed to block the records’ release.

The armed guards — hired from local private security companies — have been stationed in The Journal News’s headquarters and in a satellite office in West Nyack, N.Y., since last week, said Janet Hasson, the president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.

“The safety of my staff is my top priority,” Ms. Hasson said in a telephone interview.

The newspaper prompted a national discussion and a torrent of rage online after it published an interactive mapof handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland Counties on its Web site last month. The Journal News had gathered the information from public records after the school shooting in nearby Newtown, Conn.

Predictably enough, the response has been histrionic. The county has denied further FOI requests for related records, despite the fact that they are not exempt under New York law.

State lawmakers are making noise about an exemption, though.

Slate weighs in, arguing for continued access. Ken Paulson at the Freedom Forum added a nice look as well.

And some disturbed individual sent the newspaper a package containing a white powdery substance.

Well, I’m Glad We Worked That Out. Too Bad It Took A State Supreme Court…

Is it just me, or did you think we had kind of already settled this point of law a decade ago?

Accident reports compiled by troopers and maintained in a state database should be treated as public records available by request, Washington’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Justices said in their 7-2 decision that the Washington State Patrol improperly withheld files from a person seeking location-specific records. He was asked to sign a document vowing that he would not use the records to sue the state.

The state had argued that a federal statute shielded the records because the documents were located in an electronic database that the Department of Transportation utilized for a federal hazard elimination program.

“Until 2003, citizens have been able to request and receive copies of accident reports specific to a location,” Justice Mary E. Fairhurst said in the majority opinion. “The state now asks us to place Washington citizens in a worse position than they would have been before (the federal statute). The state’s argument is rejected.”

The court also awarded plaintiff Michael Gendler an unspecified amount of attorney’s fees for the case. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Rob McKenna says attorneys are reviewing the decision to see what options they might have.

Gendler was paralyzed from the neck down in an October 2007 bike crash after his tire got caught in a grate on the Montlake Bridge in Seattle. He sued the state, claiming a gap between steel panels was more than a half-inch wide – enough to catch a bike tire.