MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said Wednesday he is encouraging pistol permit holders to file exemption papers that would limit their information to the media.
The "opt-out" forms, now available on the Sheriff's Office website for filing, are required for firearm holders who wish to keep their identity exempt from Freedom of Information Law requests. Gerace said the information should be kept private and has no use for the public.
"I don't see any use for that kind of information other than for bad guys to know where to get guns," Gerace said.
The forms are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's SAFE Act, and comes after a newspaper in Westchester County printed the names and addresses of pistol permit holders. The newspaper received immediate backlash for the story - although its editors claimed the information was readily available and open to the public.
Gerace said he disagrees with a provision in the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act that requires pistol permit holders to file a form in order to become exempt from FOIL requests. The sheriff said the information should be private to begin with.
"I disagree with the law the way it was written," Gerace said. "It should have been the other way around."
At least one media outlet outside Chautauqua County recently had sought county pistol permit data, but the Sheriff's Office declined the request due to a 60-day window for permit holders to file.
Asked if the media should have the right to the publicly documented information, Gerace said, "What purpose does it serve? There is no use to the public at all."
Genesee County Sheriff Gary Maha, who was on his way back with Gerace from Albany on Wednesday, said he, too, is promoting the opt-out form.
"I can't think of any use of having that kind of information," Maha said. "Unless you're a burglar."
Residents wishing to opt-out have 60 days to file paperwork with the Sheriff's Office once made available by the State Police. Gerace said all firearm owners should take advantage.
The exemption forms are expected to increase paperwork coming through the Sheriff's Office, which also handles pistol permit applications. Gerace said his department received 500 exemption forms on Tuesday.
"I definitely think everyone should fill one out," he said.