Targeting fear to create a secret permit

In the middle of the day Wednesday, a poll revealing that a majority of Mainers support public access to concealed carry permits was released.

The margin in favor of public access was small, but clear.

Several hours later, in a 10-3 vote, the Judiciary Committee supported closing access to those permits — against the majority will of the people.

Committee members have been heavily lobbied by fear and misinformation on this issue, and accused of all kinds of possible (and false) constitutional infringements, and many were torn to support a special interest rather than upholding the public interest.

That’s regrettable.

If passed by the full Legislature, LD 345 would create a special shield of a government-required, government-regulated and government-enforced permit. It would be the first "secret" permit issued to individual citizens in Maine.

Under current law, there is only one permit shielded — under Title 7 — protecting trade secrets of livestock nutrition plans noted on a commercial agricultural permit.

There are a host of trade secret shields in Maine law to ensure fair competition in commerce, but none to conceal government-issued permits for personal use, like hunting, fishing or foraging.

So, the fact that we’re considering creating the first such secret permit is a move that requires a deliberative and thoughtful discourse. That has not yet happened.

In fact, when the measure to create a temporary shield was passed in February at the governor’s request, lawmakers made public and private assurances all around that they were supporting the measure not because they believed in it, but because it would quell angry sentiment clouding forthcoming discussions on LD 345.

The temporary shield did not quell sentiment. In fact, its passage was used as ammunition to further politicize debate.

Just before the start of Wednesday’s work session on this bill, as committee members were getting settled, there was some audible grumbling in the audience among the bill’s proponents that the bill should never have come before Judiciary in the first place. That, had it come before Criminal Justice it would have “flown through.”

That may be true, if LD 345 was a gun bill.

It is not.

It is a public access bill. Or, more correctly, an anti-access bill.

That it fell under the jurisdiction of Judiciary was clear to Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, when he made his motion to refer it there, a motion then approved by the full House, and was also clear to Sen. Linda Valentino, D-York, in her motion approved by the full Senate to bring it to Judiciary.

However, once assigned to committee, the conversation immediately veered toward gun ownership rather than upholding the public trust of government regulators or the desire of citizens to know who among us is permitted to carry a concealed weapon (including certain journalists and a sitting governor).

Much of the argument (made mostly by men) surrounding the move to shield these permits has been to protect women, but 56.6 percent of women polled want to keep permits in the public domain, according to Wednesday's poll.

It’s not that women don’t recognize the need to protect victims from abusers, but there is also a great desire of women to know who — whether a new flame or someone from a past broken relationship — is permitted to carry a concealed handgun.

That more woman want to maintain public access to these permits may also indicate that woman know victims already have address protection available to them through the state's easy-to-navigate Address Confidentiality Program.

Judiciary didn’t discuss these issues during two work sessions, nor did members discuss the potential desire of a citizen to know the people involved in a nearby and heated road dispute are permitted to conceal carry, or the legitimate need of media and the public to examine the validity of the regulatory process, or the desire of the governor’s office to check existence of a permit for an enraged lawmaker, as that office did in 2011.

And, then, there’s this little wrinkle in the current proposal:

Applications for concealed carry permits are already confidential and, if LD 345 is passed, the permits themselves would become confidential.

However, when a board of selectmen votes to grant a permit application — as is the case in many municipalities where selectmen serve as issuing authorities — the vote is done in open session because there is absolutely no secret voting permitted in Maine.

None.

If there is any doubt that concealed carry permits are governmental documents, just look at how an uncounted number are issued: by application to, review of, vote of and enforcement of government officials.

In towns where selectmen opt not to issue permits, that responsibility falls to State Police, which brings forth another wrinkle, and it’s a costly one.

After Wednesday’s work session, the Sun Journal was contacted by a retired police officer who — under the current temporary shield — requested the number of concealed carry permits issued in his hometown and was told that data could not be retrieved from the software now used to store that information at the Department of Public Safety.

He was told the statistical information currently on file can't be sorted and can’t be retrieved.

In fact, a lawmaker who followed up on this oddity was told — in general terms — that the concealed carry permit “computer is old, the program is old, we shovel stuff in and can’t get anything out.”

The thing is, in what was considered a compromise move, LD 345 was amended to maintain public access to aggregate data. However, if the statistical data cannot be sorted or retrieved without a total revamp of the computer system and storage platform, that’s as good as blocking public access to that data.

Or, as the retired police officer told the Sun Journal, State Police are dropping data into a black hole with no way of retrieving it for analysis or distribution without spending money for a system upgrade and labor-intensive re-importation of data.

That cost factor was never discussed at the committee level, as it should have been, to adequately determine whether the cost was something the public could bear.

So, when the Legislature takes up this bill on the floor Tuesday — as is expected — we will see whether the loud power of the gun lobby trumps the public's fundamental right to access governmental records.

And whether, as is required for emergency legislation to pass, two-thirds of House members are willing to ignore the majority public view upholding public access to concealed carry permits.

And, then tap a not-yet-discussed number of public dollars to implement secrecy.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

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

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Comments

Noel Foss's picture

Sounds like a good argument for a new computer system,

Wouldn't you say, Ron?
"Or, as the retired police officer told the Sun Journal, State Police are dropping data into a black hole with no way of retrieving it for analysis or distribution without spending money for a system upgrade and labor-intensive re-importation of data."

Make the permit data private, and it'll add to the urgency of a systems upgrade. As a matter of fact, throw your support behind LD189, since it would necessitate handling that issue.
And before you ask, the same letter I wrote to my legislators supporting LD345 included my support for LD189.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I say yes to the new computer system...........

We just have to make sure we have the same folks designe and install this one, who designed and installed the new DHHS system a few years ago. Figuring on past history, we should be up and running by "2050", if we're lucky. Of course that doesn't include the time needed for tweaking.........

Noel Foss's picture

Shrug.

Maybe get some college kid at the justice academy to do it. Pay him $10k and give him the summer to work on it. I can almost guarantee that it'd be a better system than the one in place now, with minimal financial capital investment.

Jason Theriault's picture

Bad idea

You know, it's surprising. The same people who insist that the government can't do anything right trust it implicitly when it comes to concealed carry permits. I mean, it's an awful lot of trust there. Not that the government would become subjective with the permit process. Or, I'm sure that all the proper checks happen every time a restraining order goes into effect, or someone is convicted of a crime. The Government is like a swiss watch with that stuff, never misses a tick. And no Governor, like say a democrat, would quietly start rejecting permits and making the process for more red-tape intensive. Or start outright denying them to people based on party affiliation.

This is an overreaction. If your really worried about it, make it a crime to release the information publicly, kind of like the penalties that go along with releasing health information. But removing the ability to get the data is just dumb.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I myself have been accused........

I myself have been accused of carrying on with a subject just a little longer then necessary. This gun rights ridiculousness, I feel has gone on to long. It's not the permit holders we need to be afraid of. It's those individuals who don't apply for a permit, and carry anyway. They neglect the permit because they would be deemed a "DANGER TO SOCIETY". The fact that they are aware of this, and choose to carry anyway, is a pretty good indication that these folks have no intention of obeying any other laws as well. That is what scares me.
I wish that all this energy going into revealing who is legally carrying a gun, would go into finding out who is illegally carrying a gun..........

Andrew Jones's picture

Fluff article. When they

Fluff article. When they don't have anything else to write about, expect them to write about guns!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

In my opinion, lawmakers

In my opinion, lawmakers target the law-abiding individuals because they are easy targets. They are law abiding and therefore upfront and out in the open. Lawmakers then claim shallow victories for their doting public.

Finding the real criminals is hard work; not an easy victory for lawmakers.

RONALD RIML's picture

Frank - How does one know when a Permit Holder no longer

is qualified???

There are many actions/conditions which 'disqualify' one from continuing to hold their permit. You may view them here: State of Maine Laws Pertaining to Permits to Carry Concealed Firearms

But with no means of checking a central database of 'Concealed Carry' holders, when a 'Bad Boy' is picked up and denies having a permit - who ya gonna trust???

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

No logic there

It is not possible to know who is carrying a gun illegally without also knowing who has a legal right to carry. It's like saying to a police officer at a speeding check that he can only check on people who are speeding. How would he know where to point his radar gun unless he checks everybody? People who are in compliance are not harmed by his checking their speed, only the speeders are. Right now we are operating on the assumption that everybody has a right to carry a gun and ignoring the fact that many people are a danger to others and should not have that right. The only way we can find them is to know who does have the right. A law abiding gun owner who is not a threat to his fellow man is not going to be negatively impacted by gun regulation. Criminals however will have to get more creative to get around background checks and if gun owners were more responsible about storing guns safely and lending weapons and using trigger locks criminals would have to work harder to steal them. And if it were harder to get untraceable guns the price on these things would go up significantly making it more difficult for teens to get them . All of this works in other countries and would work here if we were not passing laws to prevent the enforcement of any of the regulations we pass concurrently.

RONALD RIML's picture

"Open Government" is a Problem for You, Frank????

One doesn't ignore one problem for another.

I've seen just as many folks bleed out from 'legal' guns as from illegal ones. Bullets don't discriminate.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Maybe I'm just missing something....

What beneficial information would I gain from knowing who is legally carrying a fire arm? Let's say that I learned there were three people on my street with permits. What possible good or should I say difference would that make to me? Being a law abiding citizen, when I had my permit in MA, if I was pulled over or otherwise approached by authorities, I always informed them I was carrying a weapon. My permit was at the ready. If for some bizarre reason I had my gun and not my permit, It was cleared up with a records check. Maybe knowing who on my street is allowed to carry would matter to some. For myself, it's the unknown that bothers me. Your right, folks will bleed out just as fast from a legal gun than illegal gun. Knowing every name on the list of legal gun carriers won't do you a whole lot of good if you never see it coming. From my days of patting down concert goer's down in Foxboro, I have seen some pretty entertaining places to hide all sorts of weapons. Now I just keep an eye on everyone.....

RONALD RIML's picture

It took six children to be killed in a fiery crash before these

clowns drew the heat they deserved...... Government's got to be "Open" - I knew some of these - eventually 96 got indicted.....

What I've pointed out is that a 'Records Check' of CCW Permits in Maine is impossible for even Law Enforcement. You don't see a problem with that??

Maine is merely being negligent. The people I knew were criminal Operation Safe Road

MARK GRAVEL's picture

No, I don't see any problem

No, I don't see any problem with that.

RONALD RIML's picture

There's your first mistake.....

You assumed they were issued legally.

RONALD RIML's picture

So it's obvious now........

Not only is the 'Public' forbidden access to the private information of those people who have been issued Maine concealed handgun permits through the Maine State Police - but it appears Law Enforcement Agencies are also unable to access this information.

Good to know after someone has taken a 'revokable' action - and there is no way to check if that person has a permit without searching them.

Noel Foss's picture

So what you're saying is...

They ought to upgrade that computer system.
Great! Write your representative about your support for LD189. As a retired cop (much like the one mentioned in the article above), surely you can confirm that working with a system that's not user-friendly and accessible doesn't do much for law enforcement.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“Or, as the retired police

“Or, as the retired police officer told the Sun Journal, State Police are dropping data into a black hole with no way of retrieving it for analysis or distribution without spending money for a system upgrade and labor-intensive re-importation of data.”

This sounds like a problem regardless of any legislation and needs to be fixed or abandoned.

RONALD RIML's picture

If they suspend the permits until it's fixed

The money will flow like oil in Saudi Arabia....... ;)

Noel Foss's picture

Ah, but if they suspend the NEED for a permit until it's fixed..

The money will flow like natural gas in Pennsylvania: just as quickly, but from people who are alarmed that we'd allow such a thing to happen in their own backyard.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I’m not advocating permit

I’m not advocating permit suspension. The broken computer system is
a.) independent of any gun permit legislation or current permitting practices, and
b.) needs to be fixed or abandoned regardless to prevent throwing good money after bad.

Since the system is broken now, there is not upside to suspending permits until it is fixed.

The only relationship we can draw between this issue and Saudi Arabia is between your head and sand.

RONALD RIML's picture

;) = Facetiousness

That you fail to understand that is the true 'Mark' of a Republican..........

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Facetious - are you talking

Facetious - are you talking about my remark or your remark?

Mark

RONALD RIML's picture

You have to ask when one is marked thusly: " ;) "

You need to go back to 'Forum' school.......

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Don’t worry Ronald. By

Don’t worry Ronald. By ignoring your humor, I can restate my more serious opinion. This seems to get under your skin....relax I do it on purpose from time to time in order to frustrate you.

Just keep looking forward to your May trip.

RONALD RIML's picture

Who's frustrated? I'm used to 'edumacating' the unwashed.....

As I was paid very little for it, there's no problem now volunteering my time while I'm earning my next vacation.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Remember, vanity is a

Remember, vanity is a weakness that can be exploited.

RONALD RIML's picture

As observed at Cosmetic Counters around the world.....

.

Noel Foss's picture

Yeah, and newspaper forums.

We're all geniuses on the internet, and everybody else is a fool, unless they share the same point of view.
Plus, they're ugly and their momma dresses them funny.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The devil you know

The NRA and their humungous media and political outreach have people so scared that they are actually willing to pass legislation to protect the rights of criminals, terrorists, the mentally ill , the careless and the traffickers to arm themselves to the teeth and to do it secretly. We can be sure they will also find a way to defund the entity that keeps those records to keep the statistics on gun tragedies in the dark as they do nationally. The gun manufacturers are so afraid of losing money from gun sales to criminals that they feel the need to convince us that there is no difference between a hunter and a terrorist so we need to make sure all of them are armed. The only advantage to keeping these permits a secret is that felons, abusers and cronies who would not pass a background check will have access to these permits and no one will know. Sometimes it's worth it to take a chance on the devil you don't know and to stand up to fearmongering..

Noel Foss's picture

Claire;

Some things you should keep in mind; Every single law regarding guns only affects the people who choose to follow them. The law-abiding, if you will. The criminals and terrorists you're so concerned about the NRA "protecting" are the ones who aren't going to follow the laws anyway. That's what makes them criminals. And having access to a list of who has a concealed weapons permit isn't going to give you any extra protection from the people who don't but are carrying a gun anyway (again, criminals). You say that keeping the permits a secret would only serve to ensure that the people who "would not pass a background check" will have access to the permits and nobody will know. You seem to have forgotten that these permits are only issued after a full background check, as well as a look into the mental health history of the applicant. So if they wouldn't pass a background check, they wouldn't get a permit. Of course, odds are good that if they know they won't pass a background check they won't apply for a permit in the first place, and that won't stop them from carrying a gun if they want to.
Additionally, if you want to stand up to fear mongering, you should be sure to include most of the Gun Control advocates. Nearly the entire Gun Control campaign is built on fear mongering.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Claire, You present a lot of

Claire,

You present a lot of intriguing accusation, but present absolutely no data to back it up.

Until you start backing your serious claims with evidence, it is all simple rhetoric.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Targeting fear to create a secret permit

ed. Sat night
Wow . That's too bad . .
You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows ...
What's happening in Maryland ( MD ) ?
Someone was saying they are in the midst of passing stricter gun laws
/s Steve , former Annapolis resident

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