Members of the Rockland County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Tuesday night in favor of efforts to have state Penal Law amended to keep gun applicant information confidential. They were not fully in support of the second part of the resolution condemning the publication of a “gun map” of Rockland and Westchester counties.
Legislators Alden Wolfe, Ed Day, Douglas Jobson, Cris Carey, Toney Earl, Aron Wieder, Harriet Cornell and Jay Hood, who chairs the committee, voted in favor of the part of the resolution asking state legislators to introduce and pass bills amending a section of Penal Law that allows the name and address of gun license holders to be public information. Legislative Counsel Elana Yeger said the proposed change would prohibit public disclosure of names and addresses except to police and prosecutors conducting active investigations.
Two of the bill’s sponsors, Frank Sparaco and Ilan Schoenberger did not attend the meeting.
Except for Cornell, the legislators supported the second part of the resolution condemning the publication of the online map and demanding its removal. Cornell said she disagreed with the use of “condemning” in the resolution and that she write her own letter of objection to The Journal News.
The members came under criticism from Art Aldrich who warned them against taking action that violated the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of freedom of expression including freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Wolfe disagreed with that description of the resolution and said it resolution did not abridge anyone’s rights. He said it was the committee’s way of exercising its freedom of speech.
The legislators agreed the “gun map” created a public safety issue. Sheriff Louis Falco said it gives a robber or burglar the opportunity to target properties that do or do not have guns and enables criminals to make “an informed decision” before they act.
Several legislators noted inaccuracies in the map put people at risk. Wieder said people who are not proponents of guns were also placed in jeopardy.
“It makes no sense whatsoever to identify locations where there are guns,” said Day, adding it not only exposes people to potential burglaries but also could lead to more illegal firearms on the streets. Hood said he was “dumbfounded” that the information had not been removed. The full legislature will vote on the two-part resolution when it meets on Tuesday, Jan. 15.