A history of open access to permits

Last week, as debate swirled in the House regarding emergency legislation to temporarily conceal the personal identifying information printed on concealed handgun permits, there were a lot of questions about why the 112th Legislature defined these permits as public records way back when.

A lot of questions, but no answers.

So, in our effort to support an informed debate on LD 345, a bill that would permanently shield concealed permits, we took a look at the legislative history of what had been known as LD 519, An Act to Establish Guidelines for the Issuance of Concealed Weapons Permits, passed as PL 119 in 1981.

That bill, to permit confidentiality of concealed permit applications and proceedings but require permits to be maintained as public records, was supported by none other than the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, “whose representative was present at all of the working sessions” of the Committee on Legal Affairs, according to the legislative history.

The bill was also fully supported by the Police Chiefs Association, the Maine Municipal Association and the National Riflemen’s Association, which is now known as the NRA.

And, it was passed by a Legislature that included, among its membership, Speaker of the House John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, Senate President Charlie Pray, D-Millinocket, Sen. Paul Gauvreau, D-Lewiston, Sen. John Baldacci, D-Bangor, Sen. Richard Trafton, D-Auburn, Rep. Charlie Webster, R-Farmington, Rep. Darryl Brown, R-Livermore Falls, Rep. Roy Nickerson, R-Turner, Rep. Albert Stevens, R-Sabattus, and other well-known lawmakers.

More interesting than the fact that SAM and the NRA supported this legislation to define a concealed permit application process is the fact that neither spoke against the public record requirement of concealed permits.

The original bill, sponsored by Rep. Merle Nelson, D-Portland, called for “all applications and supporting documentation” connected to a concealed handgun permit be confidential and not available for public inspection or copying.

In working the bill, the Committee on Legal Affairs recommended splitting off the confidentiality protection for the application documents from the permit itself, upholding the shield on the application but making the permit a public record.

That amendment protected personal information contained in the application, but not personal identifying information printed on the permit. That's an important distinction, and one lawmakers made with considerable thought.

In fact, when it came to disagreement on this bill, the only real debate of any merit was conducted in the House over a contentious amendment to exempt hunters from the concealed handgun permit requirement while hunting, something Rep. Paul Jacques, D-Waterville, argued against, saying “what you are saying is that anybody that has a hunting license will have the right to have a firearm under their jacket or in their pocket,” without undergoing a rigorous permitting process. “How,” he asked, “do you expect your law enforcement people to do the job?” if anyone able to buy a $5 hunting license would then be permitted to conceal carry.

Jacques pushed for passage of the original language in LD 519, without the hunter-carry exemption, because “It is fair, it treats everybody equally.”

His argument prevailed and, in the end, that amendment was soundly defeated and the bill was passed into law — including the public record requirement.

The law was amended once again in 1999 to delete one word, and recodified in 2006 as PL 1985, which left the public record language intact, according to the legislative record.

The only real change since the bill was passed in 1981 was in 2011 when, at the request of Gov. Paul LePage, language that issuing authority for concealed permits “shall” make all permits available for public inspection, was strengthened to “must” make permits available for public inspection.

This is the history of Title 25, Chapter 252, a history of full support from SAM and the NRA, and a history that includes a recent strengthening of the public record requirement.

SAM, borrowing a page from the NRA, is now using fear of privacy infringement as a call to action (and donation) in what it calls a “crisis” of public record requests that threatens law-abiding gun owners.

The legislative record is clear that, since 1981, SAM supported the requirement that these permits remain in the public domain, much like it supports the public record status of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses which contain all of the same  information.

LD 345 has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over public access-related legislation, but has not yet been scheduled for public hearing.

When it is, we ask again that tempers remain steady and that history be our guide.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yes, we should reflect on

Yes, we should reflect on recent history to illustrate how this information is used in mass to bully people. As such, the Legislature MUST pass LD 519 and LD 345.

Steve  Dosh's picture

A history of open access to permits

Joyce 13.02.26 4:20 hst ?
" The only real change since the bill was passed in 1981 was in 2011 when, at the request of Gov. Paul LePage, language that issuing authority for concealed permits “shall” make all permits available for public inspection, was strengthened to “must” make permits available for public inspection. "
. .This issue straddles the difference between rights and privileges . To drive is a privilege , not a right . It can be taken away . To own a gun is still a right in these very U S of A yet controlled by permission in most States . Some States require an affadavid asserting sound mind , character and no priors . Ollie North can not own a gun or vote
To put the matter in to another light , in Flori-duh there is a law ( being contested right now in the Trevon Martin case ) about " acting in self defense ."
Was it or wasn't it ?
Young man Trevon was killed with a Twinkie ® and a soda in his hand
On to Aurora CO and Newtown CT
These individuals were well within their rights to have guns
The children weren't
Never let the truth be the enemy of the good
" Sure you can have my gun. .. .right after you pry it out of my cold and dead hands , " Some will say . " Live free . Die . Protected by Smith and Wesson ."
The N R A is anacronistic and a hold over from the 17th century , much like capitol punishment , the guillotine and hanging , and killing our own citizens in the name of the law and other inhumane corporal punishments we practice , along with commuist China
The British are not coming and the only place with private armies and militias near us is Mexico and Central South America . The French still use conscripts and mercenaries in their Foreign Legion . These are facts . Guns kill small children and other living creatures
There are other methods of defense such as pepper spray , mace , and tazers readily available to everyone . You want to hunt ? Use a bow and arrow , a trap , or a slingshot with steel balls , sportsmen and women • h t h ? /s , Steve

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

What do you say we make

What do you say we make public the names of all people who have been on welfare for two years or more?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Perhaps you miss the purpose

Perhaps you miss the purpose of the 2nd amendment. Remember, enemies can be foreign or DOMESTIC. Moreover, a domestic enemy could be our own government.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

One could make a strong

One could make a strong argument for America having more domestic enemies than foreign.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

One bright spot on the

One bright spot on the horizon is that the U.S. taxpayer finally gets spending cuts through sequestration.
Let’s hope the Republicans have the intestinal fortitude to see it through. The world will not come to an end as Obama claims.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

There are more balls on the

There are more balls on the average billiard table than there are in the entire Republican portions of the House and Senate.

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