Court rules in favor of NYPD: ‘Times’ can’t have addresses of handgun-license holders

Bloomberg, Cy Vance and Ray Kelly in October. (Edward Reed via Flickr)
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Today, an appellate court ruled against the New York Times in a suit about gun permits, and public access to an electronic database containing the addresses of permit-holders, arguing that a lower-court judge had "erred" when, in 2011, she ruled in the newspaper's favor.

In the ruling, obtained by Capital (click the image below to read it), a panel of appellate judges agreed with the NYPD's contention that the release of permit-holder addresses in electronic-database form to the Times might endanger permit-holders, and, since the NYPD had already released the zip codes of permit-holders to the Times, would really serve no further journalistic purpose.

Here are the relevant passages from the decision:

At a minimum, the affidavit demonstrated “a possibility of endanger[ment]” sufficient to invoke the exemption set forth in Public Officers Law...

Nor, since the zip codes of the license holders were disclosed, would the additional disclosure of their exact street addresses appear “to further the policies of FOIL, which are to assist the public in formulating intelligent, informed choices with respect to both the direction and scope of governmental activities.”

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The Times first filed its suit in 2010, but the issue has drawn renewed attention after the Journal News published the names and addresses of gun permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties, sparking gun-owner outrage and even some death threats.

The Journal  News has since taken down the addresses.

"We are in the process of reviewing the decision and considering our legal next steps," Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Capital.

The paper has not yet exhausted its legal options. They can appeal this decision to the New York State Court of Appeals.

In a statement, John McCarthy, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said, "This is a common-sense decision. Publishing the home address of gun permit holders raises privacy and safety concerns for both gun owners and non-gun owners alike."

In January, a source at the Times told Capital that the newspaper had no intention of publishing people's addresses.

Without them, though, the Times is presumably limited to presenting the data in maps or interactive graphs by zip code.

When the original suit was filed back in 2010, David McCraw, a lawyer for the newspaper, said: “We’ve become increasingly concerned over the last two years about a growing lack of transparency at the NYPD. Information that was once released is now withheld. Disclosures that could be made quickly are put on hold for months.”