Last updated: March 17. 2013 3:02AM - 174 Views
By JIM FITZGERALD, Associated Press

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — New York's new gun control law might be the nation's toughest, but it also includes broad new privacy provisions allowing would-be gun owners to shield their identities from reporters and the public.

It is part of the swift reaction to a suburban New York City newspaper's publication last month of an interactive map with the names and addresses of thousands of permit holders. The Journal News defended its publication of public records, but it was inundated with complaints and even threats, and on Friday the newspaper pulled the information from its website.

I am personally grateful that the Journal News will never be able to do something as dangerous and idiotic as this again, said Republican state Sen. Greg Ball, who helped draft the provision.

The provision allows handgun permit applicants to ask that their personal information be kept secret for any of several reasons: if they are police officers, witnessed a crime, served on a jury in a criminal case or are victims of domestic violence. More vaguely, they can claim that they fear for their safety or they might be subjected to unwanted harassment.

Permit holders also can ask that their personal information from previous applications be withdrawn from the public record, for the same reasons.

Claiming the possibility of harassment is a little bit of a stretch, said Diane Kennedy, president of the New York News Publishers Association. It just makes it really easy for anyone to opt out without really giving a particularly strong reason.

Journal News Media Group publisher Janet Hasson said she too was disappointed with the broad nature of the provision. In a statement after the newspaper took down the gun permit names and addresses, she said the new law didn't require the removal but we believe that doing so complies with its spirit. The interactive map had been viewed more than 1.2 million times since it was posted Dec. 23.

Hasson wrote that the decision to remove the names is not a concession to critics that no value was served by the posting of the map in the first place.

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