By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Feb 5 (Reuters) - A state appeals court on Tuesday
denied The New York Times' request for the names and addresses
of New York City's registered handgun owners, reversing a trial
court judge who had ordered the information released in 2011.
The newspaper brought an Article 78 petition against the New
York City Police Department in 2010 after the department
rejected a request from reporter Jo Craven McGinty for the data
under the state Freedom of Information Law.
The Appellate Division, First Department, ruled on Tuesday
that the NYPD did not have to hand over the information under
privacy and safety exemptions to the state's public record laws.
A New York Times spokeswoman said the newspaper was
reviewing the decision and considering its legal options.
The Times' request was initially made in 2010, but the
media's right to access gun owner records recently gained
renewed attention when a New York newspaper published an online
map with the names and addresses of gun permit holders following
the December mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown,
The Journal News, which serves suburbs north of New York
City, obtained the data through freedom of information requests
under Penal Law § 400.00(5), which made such records public.
The map created an uproar among gun enthusiasts, who accused
the newspaper of endangering residents by posting gun holders'
names and addresses. The newspaper, owned by the Gannett Co,
hired security guards for its employees following the outcry.
In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a package
of gun-control restrictions that included a provision allowing
gun owners to keep their names and addresses out of state
databases in response to the Journal News controversy. The
newspaper took down the map shortly after, citing the law but
insisting the decision was not a concession to its critics.
In Tuesday's ruling, the First Department found that
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jane Solomon erred when she
ordered the NYPD to hand over gun owner data to the Times in
The court noted that the NYPD had already disclosed the zip
codes of the permit holders and said handing over more specific
information would not further the goals of the state's freedom
of information law.
The court also reversed Solomon's ruling ordering the NYPD
to give the Times a list of all hate crimes reported since 2005,
including the addresses where they occurred. The court said that
doing so would violate the privacy of hate crime victims and
potentially place them in danger.
Solomon had ordered that the addresses be redacted to
protect victims' privacy, but the appeals court said even
partial addresses could pose a risk.
In a statement, city attorney Elizabeth Freedman said the
decision was "critical" in affirming the importance of the
privacy and public safety exemptions to the state's freedom of
The panel included Justices Richard Andrias, David Friedman,
Karla Moskowitz and Dianne Renwick.
The case is In re New York Times Company v. City of New York
Police Department, Appellate Division, First Department, No.
For the Times: David McCraw of The New York Times Company
For the NYPD: Elizabeth Freedman of the New York City law
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