Lawmakers brace for emotional hearing on handgun data in Maine

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.

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I was reading a story today about a robbery that occurred while the homeowners were away. Only the guns were taken; not the silver, the money, the jewelry or the electronics. Just coincidentally there was a pickup truck in the driveway with and NRA sticker on it. For those folks concerned about anonimity, you could start with that sticker. Otherwise the police have a right to know and there is no danger in anybody having aggregate information. the law as it was worked fine for 28 years and I have yet to hear a really good reason to change it.

Noel Foss's picture


Having the information public has already slapped that sticker on there, to continue with your example.
I've got no problem with the state keeping a database; I think it's a good idea, as long as full access is limited to law enforcement agencies. I think anybody else should be allowed to know how many permit holders there are in a given area (town, county, etc), but not names and addresses. There's no need for the general public to have that information. It's none of their business.
I hear a lot of people demanding a reason that the information on these permits be made private; I've yet to hear a good one as to why the public should have unrestricted access to it.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Concealed weapons permit holders should have no expectation

of confidentiality. The stories of buglars targeting CWP homes is just that stories; an excuse to hide their information. State law is you have a right to know and that should remain unchanged. Doesn't mean all information is public. The CVR, which makes some voter registration information available to anyone who asks for it, releases age not birth date for example as it should to protect people from identity theft. That principle should apply to CWP holders as well.

Noel Foss's picture

Just Stories?

Technically, these are stories. But they're NEWS stories about actual events that happened.
The State law is that you have a right to know, within certain limits. Violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy isn't included.

From the website:

"The Maine Freedom of Access Act (“FOAA”) grants the people of this state a broad right of access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens."

Given that this is potentially sensitive information (as previously illustrated by the poor decision making that went into the Journal news publishing an interactive map of permit holders using publicly available information), it seems logical that there's discussion around restrictions to public access.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Stories aren't always true.

This one in particular. It made it to Fox News as unreliable a news source as exists on the planet. But in the end, I agree with your last paragraph. Should be discussion. Let the CWP's make their case (with real facts not right-wing blogsphere buzz). Then decide based on their real need for privacy.So far that case has not been made.

Noel Foss's picture

Like any news story, it should be taken with a grain of salt

but, if you really doubt its validity, I'm sure that the sheriff listed at the beginning of the article would be happy to confirm it for you. Fox is painted as unreliable by liberals, NBC and CBS are painted as unreliable by Conservatives. You'd be hard-pressed to find an unbiased source of news in this country; the solution is to read from both sides of the fence.
You seem to have made up your mind against a need for privacy; labeling verifiable news stories as "right-wing blogosphere buzz" is kind of a dead giveaway.
It's good that you're open to discussion, but it's bad that you only believe one side of it to be true.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

The two sides have long track records.

Story, verified by the people involved, shows how the right-wing system and it is a system works. Reporter asks a hypothetical question so outrageous it can't be believed of a press agent. Within 24 hours the story is repeated by several Republican Congressmen. 24 hours later Fox News is carrying the story about the Congressman statement implying it was true. Sen Ted Cruz referenced the story in a Congressional hearing. Then the reporter came out and acknowledged that he was innocently the source. The question was did the Republicans know that our new defense secretary had been paid for speeches by Hamas. By this time the right-wing blogsphere was going nuts and had dozens of slightly different stories all to the same effect and newspapers were carrying them as if true. They then carried stories that the left was distorting the information or refused to invesigate. Went on for days. The left isn't close to being that organized. So I rarely believe anything until its well documented or been resolved in court.

Noel Foss's picture


The "Left wing media" doesn't pass off unconfirmed or fabricated stories as truth? I give you;
Spontaneously firing Remington 700's
Exploding GM Trucks
Gabrielle Giffords being targeted because of "conservative rhetoric" by someone who turned out to have no political leanings at all
Complete absence of coverage of legal defensive firearm use while broadcasting every story about a gun murder that pops up
The Sequester

Just as absurd from the right:
The aforementioned "Friends of Hamas" Hagel debacle
The "Birther" controversy
Constant criticism of climate change theories
The recent ongoing bickering between the White House and the network.
The Sequester

Unconfirmed and unfounded stories abound on both sides of the aisle. CNN probably comes the closest to unbiased reporting, simply by publishing relatively few "Opinion" pieces and by much more scrupulous research. I spend a good deal of my free time reading stories from multiple news organizations, some of which paint completely different pictures of the exact same issue. I read NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, BBC, and local news coverage. I also usually listen to NPR on my way to and from work. CNN is usually the most-fact based, NBC and CBS both have definite liberal leanings, while FOX has a definite conservative slant (and considerably more boobs, for some reason). The BBC doesn't have much of a slant in either direction, but some of their op-ed pieces clearly find our antics amusing and alarming (often rightly so).

I suppose the point of all this is to simply point out that both sides have systems, and both are effective at influencing the people who only get their media from one or two similar news sources.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

If you didn't notice you yourself have pointed out the

quantitative difference between left and right. of your 6 left "false" stories I remember hearing or reading of 2 if the left has a system its pretty poor. I don't know what you mean by the Sequester. If you mean it was hyped, that's true, but coverage wasn't false. After making misleading statements administration officials were forced by the media to walk them back. Rathergate and exploding GM trucks (hardly a political issue)also don't demonstrate "a system" they were isolated events. Rather was in trouble within minutes of his report. His repudiation was universal. The "complete absence of coverage of legal defensive firearm use" I've been reading or hearing discussions of the defensive use of firearms since Lott wrote the book. The NRA used to print a page in Rifleman of the cases it thought important - from media coverage. No one collects or reports information on defensive use of firearms except local news outlets. or when Lott writes a book or someone else does; its all over the news. News organizations report events that are of interest to its users. Its not normally news when nothing happens like a burglary was avoided. It is when someone's house is invaded and there are injuries. You just want them to report it because you think it helps your case. And think its misleading when they don't because you feel victimized becaue they will not help. That's because you read Lott's book or the argument that comes from it. His metodology has been throughly debunked more times than you can count. He claimed 2 million defensive uses. Others have reported the same conclusion. But simple math shows that the extrapolation always used to make these accrertions are very misleading. For example, one conclusion of 2.4 defensive uses per year is based on 69 actual defensive uses. The same 69 used with different assumptions leads to an estimate of 85,000 a year.
On the other hand, right-wing false stories are still reported some decades later as true. How about ACORN stole the 2008 and 2012 elections. of course, the fact that ACORN was disbanded in 2010 is never mentioned (I watched Hannity's labored efforts to explain how an organization that disbanded really didn't disband). Including in the Ryan budget that prohibits Federal spending to an organization that doesn't exist. And the stories about ACORN have been proved to be based on doctored tapes and only one side was presented. In fact, no one in ACORN ever did anything wrong. And no evidence has ever been presented by anyone that ACORN was involved in voter fraud. In all court cases in which ACORN was involved they were never and their employees were never found to have done anything wrong. Or the famous Philadelphia Black Panther "voter intimidation" case. No voters were intimidated and the police asked nothing more than one of the Panthers leave becaue he was too close to a voting place. You can go one back to Nixon's doctored photo's when he ran for the Senate back what 1948 or 1950. People still believe Nixon didn't doctor the photo's.
There is no equivalence here between left and right.

Noel Foss's picture

You're making some incorrect intuitive leaps there.

I've never read anything by Lott, but I'm familiar with his work (I believe you're referencing "More Guns, Less Crime"?). I don't buy into any study that extrapolates national statistics based on such a small data pool. For either side of the debate, actually. There's several books from the both sides of the debate that I HAVE read that do the same thing (extrapolate national data based on a small, targeted survey), and I don't put much stock in any of them, either.
A sequester example: We can't afford tours of the White House because of the sequester, but we can spend $50 million on new uniforms for the TSA? Seems dubious, especially since when I flew to NY back in December the uniforms of the agents who searched my backpack because of my old-fashioned safety razor (sans blade, thank you very much) looked pretty spic and span.
As for the examples you're disputing as invalid, I wasn't aiming at politics specifically, simply citing examples of false or misleading reporting as it relates to the discussion we were having; that I feel that both conservative- and liberal-leaning news organizations have a history of reporting stories that aren't always true. Hence, my opinion as to their validity.
The defensive firearms reference reflected a lack of coverage on NBC or CBS that I regularly see (despite your assertion that only local news outlets report these instances) on CNN or FOX; a citizen using a legally-owned gun for justified personal defense. It has nothing to do with political coverage, but reflects a political bias; NBC and CBS both show a definite slant in their firearms coverage, and THAT is what I find misleading. "Selective Journalism" isn't about reporting the facts, it's about pushing an agenda or playing to a base. As you say; Media outlets report what their users want to read. NBC and CBS focus on negative coverage of firearms and political rhetoric against them, plain and simple. Fox focuses on positive coverage, and similar rhetoric, also plain and simple. All of this reinforces the point that I'm making about biased reporting. If you can't accept that both sides display a bias on political issues, there's nothing I can do about that.

If you don't want to believe me, fine. I'll bid you goodbye and good luck. But as a parting example, an instance you've brought up yourself in the past; Diane Feinstein's proposed weapons ban based on cosmetic features rather than functional ones. I haven't seen any coverage about its' obvious deficiencies on NBC or CBS, and haven't seen any coverage about its positive merits on FOX.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

I will affirm with out question that all news is biased

But I have 50 years involvement in politics. The right wing over those 50 years has been consistently better organized, better funded, and more systematic in promoting "news" stories of their choice i.e. fit into their current strategy (the Rightwing has spent at least $3 billion funding think tanks, colleges and college chairs, magazines, etc ignoring profit making corporations' spending to sell their ideology sine 1960). Liberal news is not coordinated, not systematic, poorly funded and lacking a any strategic vision i.e. false stories are the result of bad journalism/ignorance not a plan. I think that directly applies to your last paragraph. I too have not seen any stories on NBC or CBS on the deficiencies of the AWB. But on this one I'd forgive Fox for not having any positive stories - I can't think of a positive angle to the AWB at all.
In parting I suggest you read the book (I think its called the Plot to take the White House) on the "Businessmen's Coup" author I think is Archer or something close to that. 1934 J.P. Morgan bank assigned Charles Davis, chief counsel 1924 Democratic Presidential nominee, and lead lawyer before the Supreme Court in 1954 in Brown v, to organize the overthrow of the US Government. They recruited Maj. Gen. Smedley Darlington Butler to raise an army of 500,000 WWI veterans armed by Dupont which had just purchased Remington Arms for that purpose to march on Washinton where General Douglas MacArthur had agreed to keep US Army troops in their barracks during the coup. The plot failed because Smedley Darlington Butler turned the ploters in to the FBI in Philadelphia. John McCormick held secret Congressional hearing on the plot and released a one page conclusion that standed that Gen. Butler's testimony had been conclusively verified. The plot was funed by the owners of Singer Sowing Machine, Henry Ford, Mellon Family, Morgan family and all 30 largest industrial firms in America at the time.
Hear of it. If you have I'd be shocked. I only know about it because Smedley Darlington Butler was my distant relative and the story circulated in the family for decades before their was any confirmaton of it. Except for Philadelphia papers (a reporter acted as Butler's go between during the plot), tere was no coverage of the Congressional Hearings, Gen. Butler, or the plot. The only public result was Gen. MacArthur was ordered to the Phillipines. No media coverage then or now.

Noel Foss's picture

This book?

Noel Foss's picture

Nope, never heard of it.

But it sounds like a pretty neat read. I'll have to see if I can find it anywhere. Thanks! I'm always interested in a good book.


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