The hearing is the first on dozens of bills related to gun ownership and gun control submitted during this year’s legislative session, including several that would affect the state’s concealed handgun permit system. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold hearings on most of those bills, including LD 997, a proposal by Senate President Justin Alfond to limit the amount of ammunition that can be contained in a firearm’s magazine, which was referred to committee Tuesday.
The hearing on LD 345 went to the Judicial Committee because of the public information implications.
Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, the lead sponsor of the bill, framed his argument in terms of a public safety issue, particularly for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence whose attackers might be looking for them.
“We as legislators should want to protect the public,” said Wilson. “These individuals are not criminals. They are not the individuals that we need to fear and they need to be protected. What is the point of having a concealed weapons permit if everyone knows you have it?”
Wilson’s bill, “An Act to Ensure the Confidentiality of Concealed Weapons Permit Holder Information,” would keep personal and identifying information of concealed weapons permit holders confidential and bans a person who has that information from redistributing it.
Wilson’s bill would make permanent an emergency piece of legislation put into law earlier this year after the Bangor Daily News requested and then rescinded its request for concealed weapons permit holder information.
During his presentation of the bill, Wilson offered a few amendments, including that some aggregate information be open to release. Wilson’s amendment, which has not yet been published, would also remove the provision in the bill that makes it illegal to circulate permit information that has already been obtained.
At least 100 people filled the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee room along with two adjoining rooms for Tuesday’s hearing. Dozens of them said they intended to testify for or against the bill. The majority of the people present wore stickers that read “Please Support LD 345, Keep your hands off my concealed carry information!”
Early testimony favored of Wilson’s bill — with one exception.
Rep. Paul McGowan, D-York, pointed out that some people have legitimate reasons for wanting information on who has permits and who doesn’t. One such scenario, he said, is when a parent sends his or her child to another family’s home to visit.
“I would ask that you take deep consideration of this other side,” he said. “I have constituents who want to know that you’re thinking about their rights. There are many of my constituents who do not think of guns as a friendly thing. They think of guns as a threat.”
Michael Cianchette, chief counsel for Gov. Paul LePage, spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of the administration.
“It is not my right to know whether my neighbor is taking certain medication any more than it is my right to know that he or she possesses firearms,” said Cianchette.