'Guarding our right to privacy and safety'

In the wake of the Bangor Daily News sending letters to police departments across the state, demanding the names, addresses, and birth dates of all concealed handgun permit holders in Maine, citizen activists and Republican leaders have spoken out in support of making that personal identifying information confidential. Meanwhile, the news media has made clear their opposition.

Sunday’s editorial, “Guarding our right to public access,” listed 22 randomly-chosen items that are part of the public record, subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act. The point was that by default, every record and meeting in state and local government is subject to FOAA.

What the editorial didn’t sample was the 483 exceptions to FOAA. That’s right, written into statute are 483 government records that can’t be obtained by the public. They include many measures that concern personal privacy and public safety, just like my bill to keep the personal identifying information of concealed handgun permit holders confidential, and the governor’s bill enacted Tuesday to do so on a temporary basis while my bill goes through the public hearing and committee process in Judiciary.

Tuesday’s vote was to enact FOAA exception number 484 on a temporary basis. With it, Maine joined 35 other states that keep the personal information of concealed handgun permit holders confidential.

What other parts of the public record fall into an exception? The names of General Assistance recipients are an example. It doesn't seem right that taxpayers can't find out who is receiving their money in the form of welfare benefits, but anybody can find out if you hold a concealed handgun permit.

What disturbs me so much about the news media’s outcry over this legislation is not the fact that they’re bashing a fairly common type of law — a FOAA exception — that was enacted with sweeping bipartisan support, 129-11 in the House and 33-0 in the Senate as a temporary measure. No, what disturbs me is that unlike other issues they take an editorial stance on, here they have self-interest.

Broader access to public records makes the media’s jobs easier, and so naturally they come to the defense of public records. But Maine people have other concerns that must be balanced. With the second highest rate of gun ownership in the country, Mainers are skeptical of organizations or individuals poring through their personal information, which happened to be publicly available until Tuesday, in order to compile data on a controversial topic that could be used to thwart gun owners’ rights.

Mainers are also concerned that if they go through the trouble to obtain a concealed handgun permit, their tactical advantage in personal protection may be jeopardized by the public availability of that information. What’s the point of concealed-carry if anyone can know you carry? And yes, there is the concern of firearms theft, a concern flippantly dismissed by the Sun Journal as, essentially, “criminals are too dumb to think of that.” I hope they're right, but I'd rather be sure.

Finally, many Maine gun-owners simply believe that whether they have a concealed handgun permit is nobody's business.

The entire tone of the editorial was one of anger and self-interest, not one of deliberative thought and reflection on an issue of pressing public concern that deserves dispassionate review by one of the state’s major media outlets.

To the paper’s clever sound-bite, “information doesn’t kill people, people kill people,” a play on the NRA’s famous slogan, I say this: does the Sun Journal believe that it should have access to sensitive military information? If information doesn’t kill people, that shouldn’t be a problem. But we all know that it is.

It must frustrate a newspaper whose job is made easier by more access to records that Mainers demonstrated late last week and, through their representatives in the Legislature, on Tuesday, that they care more about keeping their personal information private than about a newspaper’s ability to snoop through it.

To them, that’s worth creating FOAA exception number 484 on a temporary basis.

Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, is a Marine veteran and Realtor who serves on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

'Guarding our right to privacy and safety'

Rep. Wilson 13.02.23 19:11 hst ?
We're unsure why you are fearful of having the names made public . Do you think us non - gun owners are going to steal your guns ?
i can assure you we will not •
Q: What are you real fears ?
A: ___________________________ •
/s , Dr. Dosh and family

RONALD RIML's picture

How do we know the government is doing it's job???

Representative Corey - Do all who hold Concealed Carry Permits now still qualify for them?

Do issuing authorities review permits on any cyclical basis to ensure that permit holders remain in compliance with 25 M.R.S.A. § 2003?

Permits are legally invalidated 30 days after a holder moves from one municipality to another without notifying the issuing authority. How is this possibly ascertained?

Newspapers 'Snoop' when Government fails to do it's job - and oftentimes that becomes quite embarrassing for both executive and the legislative branch which you are a part of.

Being a Veteran of the Marine Corps, no doubt you are familiar with one hand of an organization having absolutely no idea of what the other hand is doing.

Now, Representative Cory - without public scrutiny by the Press - how may we Citizens know that Government is doing it's job of properly reviewing existing permits holders for changes in their status which may make them ineligible to maintain their permits?

Has there been a history in Maine of misuse of this Public Record information?

You ask if the Sun Journal should have access to sensitive military information; this is a 'Straw Man' argument. Public Records are NOT sensitive military information, and for you to suggest so indicates that you have little understanding of the purpose of a Free Press in an Open Society.

You ask us to trust our fellow men - with all of their strengths and weaknesses, foibles and follies - to secretly carry instruments of death concealed about their persons in a free and open society. Yet you, as an elected government official, refuse to trust the press in monitoring whom our government grants this special concession to.

That's a real disconnect.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Ron , 19:19 hst ? Saturday (

Ron , 19:19 hst ? Saturday ( listening to Prarie Home companion )
Q: Has there been a history in Maine of misuse of this Public Record information?
A: There are been no misuse of public information attained through the F O I A as far as anyone knows in ME
There is a plethora of paranoid Republican politicians though
As usual , we are reading from the same sheet of music , you and i , in perfect harmony
Thank goodness for the fourth estate BDN ® and LSJ ® readers
ref : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Estate
/s , Steve , former ombudsman :)

RONALD RIML's picture

Steve - Why carry concealed in the safest state in the union??

But for paranoia?? That symptom which induces so many to align with the Republican Party in the first place.

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...