Desperate appeals from lawmakers to keep concealed-handgun permit data open to the public failed Thursday as the Legislature gave final approval to a bill to make the names of permit holders and other personally identifying information confidential.
The Senate’s 25-8 vote followed a 114-33 vote Thursday in the House, which debated the measure for the second day in a row. Lawmakers were under pressure to act because they will not be in session again until Tuesday, the day a moratorium shielding names and other identifying information ends.
The bill now goes to Gov. Paul LePage. The governor supported the original language of the bill but must review the latest version before deciding whether to sign it, said his spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett
The issue was pushed to the forefront in February after the Bangor Daily News made a Freedom of Access Act request for information on concealed weapons permits issued by the state. The debate that ensued sought a balance between personal privacy and open government.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, called the issue a public safety concern. He said the bill would shield legitimate gun owners from having sensitive information about them open to the public. Supporters of the measure included the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, the National Association of Social Workers, Maine State Police, the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, the Maine Municipal Association, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the city of Bangor, Wilson said.
House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport, who supports the legislation, said the issue also is about Second Amendment rights.
“This is a gun bill. It’s about a fundamental constitutional right we have,” he said. “These are law-abiding gun owners.”
The bill would allow some information about concealed-weapons permits to be made public, such as a permit holder’s gender, town, date of issuance and date of expiration.
Rep. Charles Priest, D-Brunswick, was one of three members of the Judiciary Committee who supported a version that would have kept the data open to the public but allowed exceptions for police officers, judges, prosecutors and others who might be endangered by having their addresses and other personal data disclosed.
Priest said no one told his committee during a hearing on Wilson’s bill that they had been harmed because concealed-weapons data was public.
“There is no proven need for this,” Priest said. “The policy of this bill will soon be extended to hunting licenses, I can tell you that, because they too indicate that you have possession of a gun. Passage of this will do untold harm to the right-to-know law.”
Independent Rep. James Campbell of Newfield, who said he has concealed-weapons permits from Maine and New Hampshire, suggested that Maine go the way of Vermont and not have concealed-weapons permits or restrictions at all.