A controversy over the privacy of gun owners names and addresses could flare in Erie County, with a pending request, from the Buffalo News, to see the entire permit database.
Permit information is a public record, and as such should be released with a Freedom of Information request, but the new gun law signed on Monday limits the state records law to protect handgun owners from being identified publicly.
The Buffalo News, in a prepared statement, says it does not intend to publish the permit holder information.
In late December, Gannett's Journal News published a map with the names and addresses of each registered gun owner in Westchseter and Rockland Counties.
The effort there triggered rebuke from public officials, and resulted in reporters there recieving threats. The NY Daily News reports at least one gun burglary at a home listed on the map.
" The News seeks this information just as it has data of voter registration, criminal records, municipal salaries, property assessments and tax rates," wrote editor Stan Evans.
" One reason for seeking the information about gun permits is so that in the event of a gun related crime in the future, we would be able to report whether that individual has a legal hand gun," he said in a prepared statement.
The issue re-ignites passions that were stoked downstate. In the past week, Westchester's County Executive has asked the paper there to remove the map of gun owners from their website, saying it "demonizes" gun owners.
"I think we saw in Westchester that it really threw fuel on an already heated fire. I am looking at our legal obligation. Certainly i am taking into consideration whether there would be any harm to the public, " Jacobs says.
The request under New York State's Freedom of Information law was made Friday, before new York adopted new gun regulations, Jacobs said. The new provision would allow a handgun permit to maintain privacy under the Freedom of Information law.
"But it's hard to say if there's one factor or a multitude of factors."
Jacobs says all the tragedies that have happened have heightened discussions on gun laws, and "I think it's probably causing a significant amount" of gun permit application activity.
What will change is the length of a permit, from lifetime, to five years, with re-certification every half decade. What Jacobs is unsure about is what the re-certification will entail.
"My guess would be just checking the address is the same, there's no criminal activity over the five year period, then re-certify," notes Jacobs.
But he says if it's just that, "We're going to have to find a way to do it with limited staff and I don't see any funding coming our way, so it looks like another unfunded mandate to local government."