Rensselaer County Clerk seals pistol permit records

TROY, N.Y. — Since the SAFE Act went into effect, there have been a number
of controversies surrounding it. Now, another county is taking a stand against
one of its provisions, by sealing all pistol permit records.

Pistol permits are public information, but along with the SAFE Act came the
option for permit holders to sign an exemption form, allowing their information
to be private.

Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola says this is a giant financial burden
on the county and has taken the matter into his own hands, asking other county
clerks to do the same.

In the basement of the county clerk's office are 20,000 pistol permit
records dating back to 1930. Merola says about half of them are active and
equal a giant sea of paperwork, with only one pistol permit clerk.

“The Governor somewhat assured the county clerks and the sheriff's
departments that we wouldn't be taking on any extra work, but I think from day
one we have been held with the big brunt of it,” says Merola.

He says he just doesn't have the staff or the funding to manage the
exemption forms. So far, he has received 2,000 in just a few months. Now he is resorting
to sealing all Rensselaer County pistol records until he says the state comes
up with a guideline and money for the mandate.

“I'm one of the relatively smaller counties,” he says. “Some
of the counties have upwards of 7,000. I have 2,000 and 2,000 I don't have the
time to handle. I don't have the money, I don't have the personnel.”

Merola says while pistol permits are public information, county clerks have
to be able to differ between those who wish to opt out and those who don't.

Troy resident Mario Spataro says the information should remain public.

“What is there to hide?” he says. “If your next door neighbor
has a rifle or any amount of assault weapons, you should know.”

Merola says his decision to seal the pistol permit records has nothing to do
with agreeing or disagreeing with the SAFE Act. It comes down to money and
resources.

“Priority? It's going to be at the dead bottom,” says Merola.

“It was public information before and there should be no sealing it
before,” says Spataro.

The state has already sealed its pistol permit records and individual
counties now have the responsibility of dealing with the exemption forms.

Merola is calling on other county clerks in the state to take a stand along
with him.

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