Bangor paper rescinds request for gun permit info

The Bangor Daily News has rescinded its request for records about concealed weapon permit holders in the state of Maine. We have informed the agencies who received our request to disregard it. We’ve informed the agencies who have responded that their records will be destroyed.

We are disappointed with the reaction to our request, which we felt was with the best intentions to help study issues affecting Maine through an analysis of publicly available data. We will continue our reporting, but will use other sources of information to do so.

The BDN regrets that its request for information may have been taken as a personal attack on concealed carry permit holders, some of whom work at the BDN.

What has been heartening, however, are the dozens of calls and emails from readers about this issue. We’ve had many good conversations about our request, our intentions, and our commitment to privacy and security of the data.

Unfortunately, these conversations have been trumped by rampant misinformation about our request, as well as swift political opportunism. It’s clear that as a state, and as a nation, we still have much to do to generate light in this debate, instead of heat.

What also has become clear are concerns about the concealed weapons permits process. Some callers to the BDN spoke of long delays in the review of applications; the fact these records also are spread across multiple agencies around the state also should be a concern.

We urge lawmakers in Maine, as they debate the privacy of permit data, to also closely scrutinize the process by which these permits are reviewed and whether the permit-holder information is secure.

The BDN never would have published personally identifying information of any permit holder in Maine, as a newspaper in New York had done. To have done so would have been irresponsible to our readers and our communities.

Nevertheless, our reporting will continue on issues facing Mainers. Although we regret causing this controversy, it has not dulled our will to ask difficult questions to keep our governments accountable and help make Maine a better place.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage displays his own concealed firearms permit in this photo posted to the governor's Twitter feed Thursday. LePage was responding to a request by the Bangor Daily News for public information on concealed carry firearms permits in Maine.  "There is no reason why these records should be public, and I encourage the Legislature to act quickly to make this personal information confidential," LePage said in a prepared statement.  "As I have said, the rights of law-abiding citizens to own firearms will not be questioned while I am governor. That is especially true for those who respect the law enough to go through the process of obtaining a permit to carry concealed.”

By Robert Long and Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA — Republican legislative leaders held what they called an “emergency press conference” Thursday afternoon to decry the Bangor Daily News’ statewide request for information about concealed weapons permit holders. They also called on legislative Democrats to fast-track a bill that’s meant to keep that data secret.

The BDN on Wednesday requested the information under the Maine Freedom of Access Act.

The newspaper’s request for the public records states it “does not intend to publish wholesale identifying information included in the list.” Anthony Ronzio, the BDN’s director of news and new media, wrote in an editor’s note published Thursday on the BDN website that the newspaper intended to request the data anyway, but that a bill submitted by Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, to keep concealed weapons permit information secret sped it up.

“The BDN has never had any intention to release identifying information about permit holders and said so in our request,” wrote Ronzio. “We recognize how sensitive this information is, and made sure police agencies knew of this intent. We believe the wholesale publication of permit holder information, as was done recently by a newspaper in New York, is irresponsible.”

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said Republicans gathered to speak up for the rights of gun owners and for public safety. He accused the newspaper of “politicizing” the issue at a time when Maine lawmakers are dealing with as many as 80 pieces of proposed legislation related to gun violence in the wake of the mass school shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012.

“It’s time to stop harassing law-abiding gun owners,” Fredette said. “We would ask that Democratic leadership speed the process along and hold a public hearing so that this can get acted on immediately.”

Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, urged the newspaper to withdraw its requests for the information. Fredette also said one reason for Thursday’s news conference was to “respectfully request” that the BDN withdraw its request for the information to allow legislators to deal thoughtfully with Wilson’s proposed legislation.

“Maine people expect much more than this out of one of their major daily newspapers,” said Thibodeau. “This is beneath the Bangor Daily News to engage in this activity in my opinion, and we would encourage them to abandon this process and let us go about our work.”

Sen. Gary Plummer, R-Windham, ranking Republican on the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, agreed.

“We on the Criminal Justice Committee are trying to deal with a number of bills that have been submitted,” said Plummer. “When you throw this kind of action in the middle of that, it is very counterproductive for our committee.”

Gov. Paul LePage, who posted an image of his concealed weapon permit on his Twitter account, joined Republicans in criticizing the FOAA request as a provocative act by the newspaper.

“If newspapers would like to know who has concealed weapons permits, then they should know the governor has his,” LePage said. “I have serious concerns that BDN’s request will incite fear among gun owners and nongun owners alike regarding their safety. There is no reason why these records should be public, and I encourage the Legislature to act quickly to make this personal information confidential. As I have said, the rights of law-abiding citizens to own firearms will not be questioned while I am governor. That is especially true for those who respect the law enough to go through the process of obtaining a permit to carry concealed.”

Fredette acknowledged that, even on an emergency basis, the Legislature could not enact Wilson’s bill before the five-business-day deadline for law enforcement agencies to comply with the Freedom of Access Act request.

Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty also attended Thursday’s event, saying the administrative costs associated with gathering the information requested would create a hardship for some law enforcement agencies.

Legislators, including Wilson, emphasized that concealed weapons permit holders are law-abiding citizens, in response to media questions about whether Maine residents’ names and other personal information, available on hunting licenses, voter and vehicle registration lists, also should be exempt from Freedom of Access Act requests.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, said in general he isn’t in favor of the release of people’s personal information, but that he wanted to wait until the public weighs in on Wilson’s bill before supporting or opposing it. In response to Republicans’ request that legislative leaders speed the bill along, Jackson said both parties agreed Thursday to table it in the Senate, where it was up to be referred to committee. He expected the bill to be moved Tuesday to a committee, likely either the Judiciary or Criminal Justice committee.

Jackson added that he doesn’t know the long-term effects of making concealed weapon permit information secret and acknowledged that if someone wants a list of gun owners, there are other ways to obtain that data.

“I just don’t know all the implications,” said Jackson. “Hunting licenses are wide-open and subject to the department having to give up the list of everyone who was buying hunting licenses.”

According to Doug Rafferty, spokesman for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, more than 177,000 residential hunting licenses were issued to Mainers in 2011, compared with approximately 30,000 concealed weapons permits that year.

Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, who has been the Democratic legislative leadership’s primary spokesman on gun violence issues, expressed initial support for Wilson’s proposal in a release Thursday.

“At first glance, I’m very supportive of Rep. Wilson’s bill to protect the rights of concealed weapons permit holders,” McCabe said. “Seeking a balanced approach to protect the public interest is important, but sensitive information about permit holders should also be protected. … The bill needs judicious and thorough review that provides all stakeholders with a chance to weigh in. Maine people believe in the right to know, and we take that charge very seriously.”

Maine State Republican Party Chairman Rich Cebra, a former legislator from Naples who attended but did not speak at Thursday’s event, issued a statement Thursday titled “Second Amendment Under Attack,” in which he sought donations to the party.

“We can’t stand idly by as the press, liberal politicians and anti-gun special interest groups control the debate and control the message in the media,” he wrote, suggesting that supporters send contributions to “help us fight back.”

Rachel Healy, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said that though the organization hasn’t reviewed Wilson’s bill in detail, in general it favors keeping public records public. As for the BDN’s FOAA request, she said it was legal.

“At this time, these records are available to the public just like other government permits,” said Healy. “There is nothing to raise our concern about any sort of misdoing.”

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Comments

 's picture

I would like to see the

I would like to see the published names and addresses of everyone ocnvicted of domestic assault, anyone arrested for drug possession that is on welfare, and all people on welfare. you want your list? I want mine.

Ken Perry's picture

Sickening

Now the Bangor Daily News wants to obtain the names and addresses of all gun permits issued in the State of Maine?? What ever happened to just reporting the news, not trying to create it?
I would like to see a list made public of EVERY EMPLOYEE of the BDN and their families, with things like where they live, photos of their homes, when they are at work, how many kids, pets, kind of cars they and their families drive, what schools and or colleges they attend, work schedules you know just for general knowledge. That way everyone could get to know more about the folks behind the Paper.
We as the public can make a difference to STOP this kind of abuse, if only 5 to 10 per cent of the readers cancel the paper delivery from any Publication that slants or tries to impose their views on the public it would send a message, if the General public seeks out other methods to Advertise and not support this type of reporting they will have to stop, start tweeting,and posting on Face Book Pages and inform the Businesses that do Advertise in this type of Publications that you will not support their business . Please, we must band together to STOP this type attacking law abiding citizens for the pure sense of selling News,

Jason Theriault's picture

You know whats fun, Ken

http://bangordailynews.com/staff/newsroom/

Then just google the name.

TADA.

Guess what kiddies? Your information is out there, and easily accessible, and had been for quite some time.

 's picture

The governor with a gun.

Now THAT'S frightening.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

A person chooses to carry a

A person chooses to carry a concealed weapon for self protection. They choose to conceal this weapon from the general public so as not to cause discord when carrying said weapon in public places. This privilege requires a 'concealed weapons permit'. If the weapon can be concealed, why should not the personal information of the permit holder be concealed and remain private as well? It's not my neighbor's or anyone else's business to know whether or not I carry a concealed weapon. Making such information public via means of the media is a travesty.

Jason Theriault's picture

Where was the outrage...

When state employee salaries were posted?

Seems to me that is far more confidential than concealed weapon permits. But confidentiality to republicans seems to only be an issue when the records are theirs

Now, Pirate, to your point. What reasons could someone want to know if someone has a CWP? Well, I bet someone dating someone might want to know. Even LePage admits that we need to get the guns away from domestic abusers and other criminals. So shouldn't someone be able to look up if someone has a CWP? I'm not saying they should release information that can lead to id theft. But I think That should be the limit of it. Anytime the government tries to hide stuff, I get suspicious. What if the government decided to only issue CWP to democrats? Or only to white people? How would you know?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

State employees' salaries are

State employees' salaries are a matter of public record. Personal information pertaining to holders of concealed weapons permits is not.
It's really none of yours or anyone else's business whether or not I have a license to carry unless I choose to inform you of such, and it certainly isn't the BDN's business to make it your business. That's the problem with liberals; they constantly want their heads up someone else's a**e.

Jason Theriault's picture

They are public record only

They are public record only because they were made public. The names should NEVER have been published. You can see how wasteful or not a salary is without having to identify the person. But that's ok, hypocritical is nothing new to politics(notice I didn't say Republicans or Democrats).

And I disagree. I think everyone has a right to know. If you want to carry a weapon, there should be some public oversight. Either carry it on your hip or have the records public.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Then it wouldn't be concealed

Then it wouldn't be concealed would it? A pistol on the hip, holster optional, is exactly the kind of attention that a concealed weapons permit holder doesn't want. They don't carry weapons for the attention rush, they do it for self protection; the more subtle, the better.
Anyone whose salary is paid by the taxpayers bears the burden, if that's what it has become, of having his/her salary a matter of public record. A person who wants to carry a concealed weapon for protection while not on the public payroll does not and should not have to be subjected to the same public scrutiny. Carrying a concealed weapon is a matter of personal choice; it should not be one of public record. We will probably never agree on this, but that's the way it goes.

Jason Theriault's picture

I agree we wont agree.

I agree we wont agree.

The point I'm making is that if you want permission to carry a hidden weapon on you, that should be a matter of record. Society has determined that it is a crime to have a weapon hidden on you. A CWP special permission, it's not a driver's license. It is supposed to be because you have a need, like fearing for your personal safety, not because you like the feel of cold steel in your pants. Now, maybe it has become more prevelent, but that doesn't mean there should be less scrutiny

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Unfortunately, the point of

Unfortunately, the point of our discussion and disagreement is moot, anyway. 80% of the people packing heat these days are doing so without permits.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Secrecy

While I certainly agree that publishing the names of people who have these permits would be dangerous and a violation of their privacy, there is altogether too much secrecy surrounding the whole gun ownership issue. There may be Second Amendment right to owning guns but I don't believe there are rights to secret sales and profits. I also don't believe there should be secrets regarding gun ownership from legitimate authorities who are charged with the responsibitlity of maintaining public safety. And there certainly should not be secrecy regarding research on the number of guns bought and sold, crimes committted with guns, deaths caused by guns and the number and identity of guns manufactured. I truly believe the secrecy around gun ownership has more to do with avoiding taxation than the fear of guns being taken away. The secrecy around gun manufacturing provides a good cover for hiding profits and a good way to pass on a million dollar legacy in a gun collection while avoiding taxes on that legacy. We already have laws regulating publishing and privacy issues regarding juveniles and crime victims. This should not be a big deal.

 's picture

BDN should be held responsible

What a joke ( The BDN requested the records of concealed weapons permits as part of long-term reporting projects on domestic violence, sexual assault and drug abuse) what does that have to do with peoples right to carry a concealed weapons holders. They are just asking for more crime so they can say they report the news. I think if this happens tthey should be held criminally responsible for any home invasion that occurs in any home that is listed in any report they print.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Why is this even a story??????

What is so news worthy about Republicans being upset about anything? All I hear about lately is Republicans blocking this, Republicans plan to delay that, Republicans will vote on this when they return from the recess. I love how politicians use words to describe everyday things to make them sound less offensive. They are going on a ten day "recess", the last "recess" I had in my life was in sixth grade. I realize the Republicans need a vacation after such a productive few days of work. I mean it takes a lot of hard work to keep nothing from happening in a country as large as ours. To be honest I would be amazed to see any resolution to anything with whats happening in Washington. The people of this country, Republicans, Democrats or Independents deserve better. It's time for Republicans to quit bellyaching about everything, grow up and get to work. These people are being paid to do what? I'm assuming its more than create depressing headlines....

Jason Theriault's picture

How is this a danger?

How is this a danger at all? How is this not a major overeaction?

Example - I have an insurance license. You can see ALL my info here, along with anyone else with ANY professional license:

http://pfr.informe.org/almsonline/almsquery/SearchIndividual.aspx

No one is flipping out about that.

Or how about how you can request anyone driving record here:

http://www.informe.org/cgi-bin/bmv/drc/step1.pl

Ken Perry's picture

How is this a danger?

Well for one thing, by having an Insurance License, or a plumbing license does not make you a target for burglary does it?? How about the part that the Paper was just doing it to stir up things and trying to sway people to think like them? Its like listing everyone who has a collection or a coin collection for that matter, it is like putting a sign in your front yard begging to be robbed.
I will take that link you posted with the names and pics of the staff at the BDN and be googling their names and addresses and using earth google to get Street views of their homes and any other info that is out there and just posting it all over the NET in every gun rights group I can find and any Webb sites that might find it useful. It just proves to me that the BDN is truly a bottom feeder News Paper.
There is a big difference in reporting the news and trying to create it.

Mark Elliott's picture

I don't believe they even

I don't believe they even need to pass legislation to stop this but it will help. While our government agencies have a responsibility to release public information upon request, they also have the right to withhold information they feel might endager others. As we saw in New York, releasing this information would pose a danger to others.

 's picture

The paper is asking for

The paper is asking for names, addresses, and birth dates. With these three pieces of information you could be a victim of identity theft. Go to a doctors appointment, the hospital, a pharmacy, or numerous other places, they ask your name and birth date. The birth date being the identifier. The BDN is NOT entitled to that information! If they do get it, how will they safeguard it? What is there security?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Newspaper's request for public information on concealed gun . .

Mainers, 13.02.14 19:30
?W t h ? Sure it miffs them . This is the Grand Old Party of obfuscation and selective memory , Dead Eye Dick Cheney , and " I am not a Crook ," Tricky Dick Nixon , after all . These were the precursors and predecessors for their hiding all information the U S public has the right to know and the Fourth Estate has the responsibility to bring forth to the burning light of democracy
Fascism is what it is called . Waterboarding ? Torure ? AG Ashcroft ought to be in jail ( different discussion :) Inconvenient truths ? Bah humbug . Deny facts ? Try harder •
Thank goodness for the essential freedom of the press in these very U S of A . It's what separates us from China , North Korea , South America , Africa , and even Europe . All their news is essentially censored and their TV - radio stations are run by their government by and for the government , in power , at the moment . Even our P B S and N P R are much more free to say and do what they want than their state supported and run institutions
Forget about freedom of speech and assembly in the Muslim kingdoms and the * .stans , too , although the Arab Spring is welcome occurance
Be bold journalists http://www.freedomforum.org/
No one is going to lop your head off here or shoot you ( let's hope :)
/s, the readers

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Operation Fast and

Operation Fast and Furious....The Bengahzi murders of 4 Americans. Why aren't Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Barack obama behind bars?

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