Greenburgh Officials Torn Over Publicizing Gun Owners

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A map published on The Journal News' website shows the names and addresses of hundreds of gun owners throughout Greenburgh.
A map published on The Journal News' website shows the names and addresses of hundreds of gun owners throughout Greenburgh. Photo Credit: Screenshot of Lohud.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Some Greenburgh officials expressed concern after a local newspaper published the names and addresses of thousands of pistol permit holders throughout Westchester County.

A heated debate arose nationwide following a map that was published The Journal News' website on Dec. 22 which identified all of the Westchester residents who have legally obtained a pistol permit.

Greenburgh Police Chief Joe DeCarlo said that he understands the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) allows the information to be public, but he's concerned that it was done on such a mass scale that it even includes the names of police officers.

"You're publishing people that have legally gone through the permit process, and now they're the ones being highlighted," DeCarlo said. "It should be FOIL-ed, but individually FOIL-ed — rather than to just throw that out there."

Online commenters have gone beyond debating the issue and made threats against The Journal News staff members. DeCarlo said Greenburgh police will respond to domestic threats made if an employee who lives in Greenburgh is personally threatened at his or her home.

To obtain a pistol permit in Westchester County, residents must submit a request to the Westchester County court judges. The application  must pass through a Westchester County Department of Public Safety Pistol License investigation before it is approved, and the licenses must be recertified every five years.

Elmsford Mayor Robert Williams said he's already confident in Westchester County's gun permit system, and that releasing the gun owners' names was unnecessary. The information could be used in the wrong way, for instance it could let potential burglars know which houses to avoid because the owners have guns, he added.

"I think they opened up a bad can of worms for the bad guys," he said.

State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh), on the other hand, said The Journal News did the public a service by alerting families that their neighbors own a gun. Abinanti, who co-authored the bill that requires Westchester County pistol holders to renew their licenses every five years and a safe-storage bill, said the bigger problem lies in the assault weapons — usually classified as semi-automatic firearms or guns with a detachable magazine — that can be obtained without a permit.

"The Journal News was highlighting how widespread handguns are — but that doesn't mean these other weapons aren't a problem," said Abinanti about assault rifles. "We've got to look at this whole picture."

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner also wants more control on assault weapons, and said that the names and addresses of owners of assault weapons should be published.

"There is no need for anyone to have an assault weapon," he said.

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I went to the Journal News and now know which of my neighbors has a license. I don't know whether this is good or bad. What this doesn't tell us is who owns a gun who doesn't have a license.