Legislation that would exclude from public release the names of gun permit holders handily passed the state Assembly Feb. 21.
The Assembly voted 77-0 in favor of A-3788, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Dave Rible of Wall, along with Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer, both R-Monmouth and Ocean. The bill seeks to prohibit public access to the names and addresses of gun permit holders under the state’s Open Public Records Act. The bill now moves to the state Senate.
Rible previously has said he is opposed to the release of such information because it could prove potentially dangerous to gun owners who follow the rules and to law enforcement officers.
“Releasing personal information about those who have firearms permits or licenses puts law enforcement officers and law-abiding citizens in harm’s way,” Rible, R-Monmouth and Ocean, said in a statement. “This legislation will codify that obtaining such information is restricted to those in law enforcement or the courts.”
The bill is in reaction to the recent publication of gun permit holders’ names and addresses in a New York newspaper.
The Journal News in White Plains, NY, published the article, “The Gun Owner Next Door: What You Don’t Know About the Weapons in Your Neighborhood,” which published the names and addresses of more than 30,000 handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. The article, which obtained the names and addresses from publicly available documents, also contained a map of the handgun permit holders.
The paper received widespread criticism for the move, and when the outrage became threatening, it hired armed guards to protect its main office and a bureau. Employees who felt unsafe at home were offered hotel rooms, at the paper’s expense.
Rible has compared the availability of gun owners’ information to that of lottery winners.
In December, the Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would allow state lottery winners to keep their identities private for up to one year. The state lottery commission, a state agency, collects the names and addresses of lottery winners, which are considered public records. The bill has not yet been taken up by the Senate.
“It’s okay to win the lottery and remain anonymous, but not for gun owners,’’ Rible has said. “It doesn’t seem right.”