AUGUSTA –Lawmakers on the Maine Legislature's Judiciary Committee were preparing Tuesday for what could be an emotionally charged hearing.
Sen. Linda Valentino, D- Saco, said the debate over how much information on state-issued concealed handgun permit should be public and how much should be kept secret was difficult balancing act.
“Committee members know there are strong emotions on both sides of this issue,” Valentino, the Senate chair of the committee said. “Maine is a Right to Know state, and we want to balance that against an individuals right to privacy.”
In February, the Legislature passed a temporary measure sealing from the public information on concealed handgun permits. Prior to the change the data was public for more than 28 years.
The temporary seal was introduced after the Bangor Daily News requested the information under the state's public records and meeting law, the Freedom of Access Act.
Under the emergency legislation the records would be public again, if lawmakers do not act to change that, after April 30.
“This is obviously going to be a difficult hearing with people on both sides who have very strong feelings," Rep. Charles Priest, D-Brunswick, said in a prepared statement. "We intend to give it a fair hearing. We want to give everybody a chance to speak so we can deal with it carefully and appropriately in the work session.”
Priest is the House chair of the Committee.
Last week the Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, said he was willing to amend a bill he has pending that would permanently seal the records. Wilson told the Sun Journal he would be willing to allow the release of aggregate permit data. He also said he was willing to allow law enforcement and others who issue the permits to have access to the data on them.
In a press release issued early Tuesday Democrats said they had several bills concerning concealed weapons drafted and moving through the Legislative process.
Among those bills are ones sponsored by a retired police officer.
Rep. Tim Marks, D-Pittston – a former state police officer – has penned six bills on concealed weapons.
Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland – the former sheriff for Cumberland County – said the issues around concealed firearms are complex.
"These are matters that will require our best and most thoughtful lawmaking and input from many perspectives," Dion said.
The public hearing on LD 345 – An Act to Ensure the Confidentiality of Concealed Weapons Permit Holder Information begins at 1 p.m. today in room 438 of the State House.