The Edmond Sun

January 3, 2013

OSBI: No Oklahoma newspapers have sought gun info

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — No Oklahoma newspapers have sought information related to gun license holders, an OSBI spokeswoman said Thursday.

 On Dec. 22, The Journal News, a Gannett paper in New York which serves the Westchester-Rockland-Putnam market, published a report online on gun ownership in the Lower Hudson Valley, and an accompanying interactive online map displaying information on gun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties.

The map shows the names and addresses of pistol permit holders licensed by the counties. Data for all permit categories — unrestricted carry, premises, business, employment, target and hunting — is included. The type or types of permit issued to each individual was not released to the newspaper.

Being included on the map did not mean the individual at a specific location owns a weapon, just that they are licensed to do so, The Journal News stated on its website. New York law does not require a permit to own a long gun such as a rifle or shotgun.

The information was obtained through requests to the individual county clerks under New York’s freedom of information law. One county was denying The Journal News’ request.

On a frequently asked questions page, the newspaper answered the question: Isn’t that private information?

“No,” the paper stated. “There is no right to privacy regarding handgun ownership in New York. State law says that, at a minimum, the names and addresses of all permit holders are public record and must be disclosed.”

Armed guards have been hired to protect newspaper staff, according to several published reports.

In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is the repository for citizens seeking a handgun license.

The Edmond Sun has not discussed making such a request, said Managing Editor Lisa Shearer.

OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said no newspapers in Oklahoma have sought comparable information. Brown said the OSBI’s official position is that the type of information published by The Journal News in New York is not releasable to the public.

Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Associations, said the way sate law reads he does not think the type of information published by the New York newspaper is a public record here.

Thomas said he believes in practical journalism, which includes applying the public interest test before deciding whether to cover a story. Wikipedia defines “the public interest” as “the common well-being” or “general welfare.” Journalism plays a central role in having a safe, healthy and fully-functioning society.

“It’s free and responsible,” Thomas said of the press in the United States.

In the New York, the newspaper published personal information about individuals who had done nothing wrong, Thomas said.

As required by Oklahoma state law (Title 21, Section 1290.6) the OSBI provides an annual statistical report of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act. It contains the required general information on a county-by-county basis about number of licenses issued, suspended, revoked or denied by age, sex and race.

The number of applications and renewal requests being worked by the OSBI have sharply increased. As of Thursday, statewide there were 144,947 active Oklahoma Self-Defense Act license holders, 20,561 in Oklahoma County, Brown said.

Senate Bill 1733, which made it legal for SDA license holders to openly carry handguns starting Nov. 1, 2012, was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in May.

The New York case is not the first time a newspaper in the United States has published that type of information.



marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108