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Pistol permits sealed in Rensselaer County

TROY -- The Rensselaer County clerk has decided not to honor the requests of anyone who wants access to pistol permit records even though the SAFE Act would have made them open to the public.  County clerk Frank Merola says he doesn't have the money or the people to go through the opt-out forms fast enough.

Until he can get through them, there's no way of knowing all the people who may have filed if someone else wants to know.

It's one person's job to handle all 20,000 pistol permits in Rensselaer County.  10,000 are active.

"I may be doing this interview a year from now and tell you I still don't have the manpower to do this," Merola said.

2,000 requests have come in from permit holders to keep their records private.  They haven't been processed.  As for their permits, Merola said, "they're downstairs locked up in the basement.  They're there, they're sealed.  There's no way anyone can come in to our counter and ask for either a list of every pistol permit holder in Rensselaer County or any individual."

After Wednesday the SAFE Act allowed anyone to request that information.

"I've only got one pistol permit clerk," Merola said.  "She's working on new pistol permits, she's working on amendments, and she's overwhelmed with that!  There's no way she's ever going to have time to do this."

Merola believes he's got good reason to seal all the records, taking an example from the courthouse next door to his office.  "If someone that is in that courtroom on the other side of the bench they decide they want to know if that judge has a pistol permit they would be able to come in to our counter, fill out a FOIL request, we have to give them the information of whether or not they have a permit and their legal address."

He's requesting funding from the state and the Governor to help cover the cost of taking on extra work, and guidelines about how to fill out information requests when and if they do come in.

"He should have sat down with the people that actually do the process to see what kind of influence this was going to be on us because it's overwhelming," Merola said.

The Governor told counties to take their time and do it as their normal workflows would allow.

New permit holders can still opt out, and prior gun owners can do so as well.  May 15th was only the time when those records would be made available to the public on the county level to processed requests.

As for some other counties in the Capital Region, Saratoga has received 2,500 opt out forms.  It believes it'll have them all processed by the summertime.

Albany County is working through 1,255.

Columbia County has about 1,000, and most of them have been processed.