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Jefferson and Lewis Counties also swamped by opt-out requests

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Joining their neighbor to the north, Jefferson and Lewis counties have been swamped by requests from pistol permit holders seeking exemption from Freedom of Information Law inquiries.

“There are four of us and some days we’re just running,” said Kathleen A. Larkins, head of the pistol permits and records division at the Jefferson County sheriff’s office.

“We have been hammered, ever since the governor announced the new law, with everything: applications for permits, people purchasing guns, and FOIL exemptions,” said Cynthia A. Robbins, who runs the Lewis County sheriff’s pistol permit office.

The exemption form was created by a provision of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 and allows permit holders to keep personal information, including names and addresses, from being released publicly.

The forms were made available by state police on Friday. Since that time, both Jefferson and Lewis counties have witnessed a torrent of requests.

Mrs. Larkins said Jefferson County has received 180 requests in four days. Ms. Robbins said she has an inch-thick stack of requests.

While the forms work their way through the system, pistol permit information will be considered exempt from FOIL requests until May 15.

Confusion caused by the swift enactment of the law has slowed things down.

Ms. Robbins said she did not receive any instructions about how to handle the requests before the form was made available, and details about procedure are still being sorted out.

Mrs. Larkins said that the requests will be vetted by the sheriff’s office but that ultimate approval will have to come from County Court Judge Kim H. Martusewicz, who is also the pistol licensing officer.

The NY SAFE Act states specifically that the licensing officer is the one who grants the exception from disclosure. However, there is no place on the request form for his signature.

Mrs. Larkins said 15,000 permit applications have been issued in Jefferson county since 1935, although no database has ever been created to track them.

Ms. Robbins said Lewis County has about 4,800 current permits. She expects that everyone who still has an active permit will submit an exemption request.

Jefferson County Administrator and FOIL officer Robert F. Hagemann III said his office has thus far received only one request for information about pistol permit holders. The request, seeking general information, came from an editor at Heavy.com, Mr. Hagemann said.

If this response is any indication, the FOIL opt-out provision has proven to be the most popular part of a bill that has met a great deal of opposition. According to www.nysaferesolutions.com, 41 of New York’s 62 counties have passed or are considering resolutions objecting to the legislation.

The Jefferson County Board of Legislators’ General Services Committee approved a resolution denouncing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s gun control bill Tuesday night. It will go before the full board March 5.

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