Maine Democrats on board with temporary shield of concealed weapons permit information

LEWISTON — Democratic lawmakers Monday predicted easy passage of an emergency law offered by Republican Gov. Paul LePage that would temporarily close off access to information printed on concealed handgun permits in Maine.

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.”

The measure comes in response to a Freedom of Access Act request by the Bangor Daily News that sought access to the information on all concealed handgun permit holders in Maine.

And while the newspaper repeatedly stated it had no intention of printing a wholesale list of permit holder names, it drew withering criticism for its request.

In the wake of a political firestorm, the newspaper withdrew its request, but LePage's administration said a subsequent request from an "anonymous" source prompted additional concern that the privacy rights of gun owners could be violated.

Democrats said Monday they support the bill — which would seal the records for 60 days — as a way to ensure a fair and open process and allow the emotionally-charged issue that pits the rights of gun owners against the need to keep public records open a chance to "cool" down.

"This moratorium is about buying some time and buying some breathing room," Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said Monday. McCabe said he and Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, joined forces with LePage and his staff late last week to craft the "emergency" legislation.

McCabe is the assisstant majority leader in the House and Jackson is the assistant majority leader in the Senate.

McCabe said he believes there is enough support among members of the Democratic caucus for the bill, and said he believes Republican lawmakers will vote in unison for the measure.

The votes on the measure Tuesday will be one of the first officially recorded roll-call votes of the session. A roll call includes a specific record on whether each member of the Legislature voted for or against a bill, or was not present for the vote.

House Minority Leader Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, also issued a statement Monday heralding passage of the emergency measure.

"I'm very encouraged to see that the first vote of the 126th Legislature will be on a bipartisan bill to support privacy and gun owners' rights, proposed by a Republican governor and enacted by a Democratic Legislature," Fredette said in a prepared statement.

But McCabe and House Majority Leader Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, were more cautious in their language, noting the law would only be temporary in nature and was not meant to yet permanently seal off public access to the information.

The emergency bill, according to Berry, is meant to give the Legislature time to have, "a full and deliberate public process around this issue."

It's also meant to stave off a push by Republicans to enact, without due public process, a bill sponsored by Rep. Wilson Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, that would permanently seal off publicly accessible concealed handgun permit information, Berry said.

The impetus of Wilson's bill was to protect against identify theft, but so far lawmakers have not presented any information to indicate how access to the information has put anybody's information or safety in jeopardy.

Robert Schwartz, the executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, said Monday he was unaware of any situation in Maine where the release of public information attached to a concealed carry permit led to any identity theft or other crime.

"I'm equally unaware of there ever being a case in Maine where a permit holder committed a crime," Schwartz said.

He said his organization is supportive of the public's right to government information, but also supports the idea of a short-term moratorium while lawmakers craft a measure that balances the right to know with the right to privacy in certain cases. "There's just got to be cooler heads on this whole firearms thing," Schwartz said.

Berry said Monday he believed the short-term moratorium would allow lawmakers to more carefully consider Wilson's bill and craft some compromises and some "outside-the-box solutions that make sure both the right to know and right to bear arms are upheld."

Last Thursday, Republican lawmakers, including Wilson, briefed reporters on Wilson's bill while expressing outrage at the Bangor newspaper's request. The next day the paper withdrew its request, and LePage announced his proposal for a temporary moratorium on the release of the information.

In an email message Monday, Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, said she agreed to the LePage proposal last week, if for no other reason, than to help cool tempers around the issue. Craven said she too would support a full public process including full public hearings on any proposals to change the state's Freedom of Access Act.

Legislative leaders said they would move to suspend the rules in the House and the Senate in order to move the governor's bill to a floor vote without the typical process, which involves a chance for the public to testify before various legislative committees about the pros and cons of the bill before a vote.

To be enacted, the bill would need to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature on Tuesday.

McCabe said he knows there could be some who may vote against the bill, but believes there is enough agreement in the Legislature to pass the temporary law.

But other Democratic lawmakers, speaking off the record, said they had serious concerns about rolling back the right to public information in order to protect the privacy rights of a relatively small group — about 30,000 people — of handgun permit holders in Maine.

Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said Monday he believed a 60-day moratorium was a reasonable and sensible approach to take in light of the on-going debate on guns in Maine and nationwide. 

"I think the importance of the Legislature is to make wise judgment calls and to ensure that the entire process around gun-control legislation is one that is thoughtful and takes in all perspectives and all views," Goodall said. "Taking this step (Tuesday) is an important step to having a constructive dialogue going forward."

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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Comments

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Lets look at this.....

Try to follow me on this. One year ago today, everyone out there with a gun or permit to carry a gun was open to disclosure. Nothing has changed in one year, only one stupid article testing a long standing policy. Even though the BDN has taken back their request for the list, and state over and over again they weren't going to publish it anyway. The outrageous paranoia continues. What will it take to make everyone happy? All of a sudden everyone is in immanent danger of losing their weapons. Nobody will have any rights at all any more, and this country will become a dictatorship.
These exact same arguments happened back in the eighties, I can't even remember what it was all about, but they banned assault rifles, or tried to. I had two Bushmasters at the time, Also let us not forget the mandatory jail sentence for possessing a fire arm without an F.I.D. card in Massachusetts. About the only ones affected by that ingenious law were legal gun owners who forgot their wallets.
These situations have been happening for decades, it's always the same, politicians pass a bunch of dumb laws so everyone feels good again. People become literally fixated on what they think is going to happen, whipping themselves into a frenzy, then after a couple of months later, it's over. The stupid laws are still out there, only being broken by unsuspecting legal gun owners. Illegal guns on the street, are still on the street, and all the people screaming for gun safety go back to their homes in the "Suburbs" and start accidentally shooting themselves while cleaning their guns, just like normal.
One year ago, anyone and their brother could get the list of concealed firearms carriers, Why does anyone think it's an issue now and not a year ago? For the same reason it won't be an issue one year from now, because no one cares.....

FRANK EARLEY's picture

P.S.

Due to all the uproar over assault rifles in the early eighties, I sold my two, 223 cal. "Bushmasters" which I bought for about three hundred dollars, to a gun shop in Natick MA, for nine hundred dollars, just before moving to Maine. Goes to show what a little bad publicity will get you....

 's picture

The issue of what State information is confidential and what is

public needs to be discussed. A temporary 60 day bill is OK if it provides that time. Privacy of state information is not a non-issue. But as others have written state policy should not be set based on hyteria and paranoia. That's the case here.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Emergency?

I called it a non issue because there is no emergency. No one is going to publish anybody's name nor are they threatening to nor did they ever threaten to. This is a" sky is falling" emergency if ever there was one. For all the panic we are hearing about this it's strange that we did not hear a peep from anybody when the Sportsman Alliance of Maine requested and received the names and addresses of licensed hunters so they could send them literature. And no one thought it an invasion of privacy when a state official, acting as a private citizen, wanted to use the names and addresses of registered voters to send harassing postcards to voters in precincts where black people voted. This issue has been inflamed by the gun lobby. A concealed permit allows a person to conceal a gun in a pocket or in a car but it does not and should not guarantee absolute secrecy and certainly does not cancel out first amendment rights nor should it cancel out public safety concerns.

 's picture

I think you are right on the money

I've asked my State Representative to clarify my understanding of the law relative to the Central Voter Registry something I'm familiar with. I agree with you that a good deal of state informaton is public and not confidential and there is no good reason to change the CWP info to confidential. It is hysteria. And we know there is no greater emotional bond than a gun owner and his gun.But I'll tolerate 60 days if it provides the time to discuss in detail the law.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Why are we still talking about this?????

Why is everyone so up in arms (I couldn't help myself), over all this privacy stuff? While the rest of the State is looking at skyrocketing property taxes, a Governor who just loves to inflict more financial hardship on everyone. We have Democrats and Republican's acting like school children and refusing to talk to each other, nothing of any significance is being accomplished except a temporary law to shield concealed gun carriers. What's next? redefining the State flower?
Anyone who has ever worked in crowded nightclubs or concert venues, anywhere that alcohol is present knows, the only concealed weapon to worry about is the one thats not registered. If my next door neighbor has a permit to carry, I could care less, if my neighbor is walking around with a "Glock" stuffed down his pants, who do you think I'm focusing on?
If you have a permit, no one needs to know your carrying anything. It's like the old bumper sticker, "PROTECTED BY A 357, THREE NIGHTS A WEEK, YOU PICK THE NIGHT".
We have real problems that need to be addressed, enough of this foolish "Gun Rights" garbage. Every time this happens we hear the same arguments by the same groups. We need to stop wishing for the impossible, every time, after all this feel good talk and new rules and regulations, once a few more guns are banned, ( made more popular), this all goes away and everything remains the same. we have big problems to tackle now, lets do it.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Hypocrisy

I can see why the legislature would want to shove this non-issue out of the way so they could get to the real work of fixing the budget but frankly rushing this bill through ahead of everything else with no public discussion while proclaiming open, fair and transparent government really smells bad. It shows you who these guys are listening to. Score one for lobbying and zero for the voice of the people.

PAUL MATTSON's picture

IF YOUR "CONCEALED HANDGUN

IF YOUR "CONCEALED HANDGUN PERMIT" IS PUBLIC INFO IT IS NO LONGER CONCEALED.

Jason Theriault's picture

CAPS LOCK DOESN'T MAKE YOU RIGHT

Why do you need to hide? If you feel this is that important to you, why hide it? You think that it makes you more of a target?

MIKE PIERCE's picture

Jason, I would suspect that

Jason, I would suspect that some people may feel this could make them a target for break-in and such. Common sense would dictate that a sane person would steer clear of someone armed, but someone hell-bent on getting a weapon they cannot leaglly obtain or an addict looking for something they can trede for drugs do not run on common sense.
I know they are not the same, but we would never think to publish a list of people with a medical marijuana card, or on opiates for pain. my point is why publish a list of people who have something that some people with bad intentions may want???
what is the purpose, will you move if your neighbor has one? Will you only be friends with people not on the list? Just what is your productive purpose for the release of this information? I cannot come up with any myself, so please help me find some.

Jason Theriault's picture

A few reasons...

I'm always wary when the government does things behind closed doors.

Reasons to be able to see who has a CWP:
1. Make sure that state is keeping track of criminals and revoking their permits
2. Compare permits to crimes and see what effect it has(lower or higher)
3. Make sure the state is issuing permits fairly(not discriminating against one group or area)

I mean, I just came up with 3 pretty good ones, I could come up with more I'm sure.

Now, as for CWP list being a shopping list for a criminal, I have two issues with that.
First - As someone stated above, the gun you want to steal might be on the person at the time. That's pretty ballsy, trying to mug an armed person.

Two - You can get a much easier shopping list. The list of people with hunting licenses are public, and I bet most hunters have guns.

The real problem is that the CWP holders have bought into the hysteria that the GOP press has feed them - That Obama is comming for their guns, and all liberals are gun grabbers. This isn't the case. With a GOP house, there is no chance, NONE WHATSOEVER, that Obama will enact any sort of gun control. This isn't the prelude to more gun control, this is nothing. But by treating everyone on the Democratic side like a criminal, the Dems feel like the GOP has somthing to hide.

Everyone needs to just calm down.

GARY SAVARD's picture

This whole thing started

This whole thing started because it would appear that some newspapers want to publish the names and adresses of people with CWPs in their readership areas. To say that publishing this information will serve a useful purpose is like saying that publishing everyone's mortgage information, liens from past due utilities or tax bills, etc. would serve a useful purpose to the general population. Anyone who needs the information will have access, such as law enforcement agencies. There is a lot of information out there that is available to the public, but that doesn't mean that it isn't sensitive.

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