New York City Handgun Permits

Shawn Musgrave filed this request with the New York City Police Department of New York City, NY.
Tracking # 2013-PL-3205
Status
Rejected

Communications

From: Shawn Musgrave

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the New York State Freedom of Information Law (1977 N.Y. Laws ch. 933), I hereby request the following records:

Listings of those persons who are issued a handgun permit for the past five years, including permits for possession as well as concealed carry. If possible, please send listings segregated by year of permit application/issuance.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Shawn Musgrave

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on April 30, 2013. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: New York City Police Department

The request has been rejected as being too vague, burdensome or otherwise unprocessable.

From: Shawn Musgrave

Jonathan David
Records Access Appeal Officer
New York City Police Department
One Police Plaza - Room 1406
NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10038-1497

May 21, 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to appeal the determination on File-2013PL-3205 (all correspondence attached), in which Lt. Mantellino determined that my request did not adequately describe a record in a manner that would enable a search to be conducted. This is an odd determination, as my request cites the precise language used by NYPD on its website describing the process for obtaining a handgun license: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/permits/HandGunLicenseApplicationFormsComplete.pdf

Records responsive to this request should be easily searchable in accordance with the list the NY FOIL law requires each agency to maintain: "3. Each agency shall maintain:
[....]
(c) a reasonably detailed current list by subject matter, of all records in the possession of the agency, whether or not available under this article. Each agency shall update its subject matter list annually, and the date of the most recent update shall be conspicuously indicated on the list. Each state agency as defined in subdivision four of this section that maintains a website shall post its current list on its website and such posting shall be linked to the website of the committee on open government. Any such agency that does not maintain a website shall arrange to have its list posted on the website of the committee on open government.a reasonably detailed current list by subject matter, of all records in the possession of the agency, whether or not available under this article."

Please inform Lt. Mantellino that his persistent invocation of this exemption is both inappropriate and antithetical to the open government tenets espoused by Mayor Bloomberg. In the future, if a request requires perfecting, we expect the provision of specific guidelines for amending the request rather than a blanket rejection.

Thank you for your attention and prompt assistance with this request.

Best,

Shawn Musgrave

From: MuckRock.com

Editor's note: Appeal mailed.

From: Shawn Musgrave

Hello,

My appeal for request 2013-PL-3205 was never acknowledged. Please confirm receipt and advise as to the status of my appeal.

Thank you,
Shawn Musgrave

From: New York City Police Department

A letter stating that the request appeal has been rejected.

From: Shawn Musgrave

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to request an advisory opinion on the records request below, NYPD FOIL 13PL103205.

On April 30, 2013, I submitted the FOIL request in question to the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The request, which is attached, seeks:

"Listings of those persons who are issued a handgun permit for the past five years, including permits for possession as well as concealed carry. If possible, please send listings segregated by year of permit application/issuance."

NYPD's FOIL unit failed to acknowledge my request within the 5 business-day window required by statute. After I sent a followup letter on May 15, NYPD rejected my request (rejection letter attached) as inadequately descriptive.

As I answered in my appeal letter of May 22 (also attached, and text below), this rejection was transparently incorrect, as my request drew from the precise language on NYPD's website that describes the process for obtaining a handgun permit and a concealed carry permit. If using departmental language does not provide adequate description to conduct a search, I am baffled as to what might.

This is not the first time that NYPD has rejected a request as inadequately descriptive on dubious grounds.

For instance, in April 2013 the NYPD FOIL unit rejected a request from a MuckRock user for weapons discharge reports, which NYPD's Lieutenant Mantellino determined was not adequately descriptive (request and rejection letter attached). The finding that this request is inadequately descriptive is odd, given that NYPD officers are required to submit firearms discharge reports as a matter of course (see attached PDF of the department's list of forms, p. 14 -- the form is number PD 424-151). Here, again, the requester used departmental language and even cited relevant case law but the FOIL unit found itself "unable" to locate responsive documents without an unduly burdensome search.

In my case, I appealed the NYPD FOIL unit's determination well within the window set out in their rejection letter. The NYPD appeals officer, Jonathan David, indicates that his department's "records have been checked" and my rejection letter was apparently never received, and so my request has been rejected as untimely (attached). Perhaps the most convenient thing about only accepting FOIL requests by postal mail is that there is no means of determining whether an agency receives a FOIL request or appeal. I could not possibly number the times that NYPD has asserted similar claims that a FOIL request properly addressed was not received. Other reporters have found a similar tendency for NYPD's FOIL unit to "not receive" their requests.

I request that the Committee on Open Government review NYPD's FOIL intake procedures to determine whether the unit is handling its mail correctly. The Committee already advises all agencies to accept requests by email. In MuckRock's experience this is a particularly useful way of resolving issues of non-receipt and non-responsiveness. It might be an option for the NYPD FOIL unit to consider, as well, as I request COOG to review this possibility with NYPD.

But Mr. David's rejection beyond a determination of untimeliness to assert that the requested records are exempt from disclosure. His reasoning is not particularly straightforward, and I am hesitant to hazard an interpretation or even summary. But I would highlight the COOG's June 2013 advisory opinion on the precise matter of firearms licensees, which holds that these records are solidly within the public sphere, especially following the passage of the SAFE ACT. Mr. David's assertion that his department is "prohibited" from releasing this information is at odds with COOG's determination.

In short, NYPD's overall responsiveness, combined with their incorrect reading of the FOIL statute, put them on the wrong side of transparency. I hereby request an advisory opinion and an investigation into NYPD's processing of this request, as well as the agency's overall response to FOIL requests.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I will also send a copy of this request to NYPD.

Best,

Shawn Musgrave
MuckRock

From: Shawn Musgrave

Mr. David,

Please find enclosed a copy of my request for an advisory opinion from the Committee on Open Government for FOIL request 2013-PL-3205, as well as supporting documents, which I sent by email to the Committee today.

Thank you for your attention, and I would be happy to speak directly with you about my concerns with your department's handling of FOIL requests.

Shawn Musgrave
MuckRock

From: Committee on Open Government

We have received your request for an advisory opinion. Please note that the staff is small (two) and that we have a substantial backlog of requests for opinions. We will respond as soon as possible.

Note that the SAFE Act authorizes gun licensees to apply to “opt out” of disclosure of their names and addresses.

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