February 15, 2013

Bangor newspaper rescinds request for concealed-gun data

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

A Bangor newspaper, after drawing harsh criticism from gun-rights advocates, has rescinded its request for the names, addresses and dates of birth of all concealed-weapon permit holders in Maine, according to a notice posted on its website Friday.

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Gov. Paul LePage displays his concealed-carry permit in a photo posted to his Twitter account on Thursday. "If newspapers want to know who has concealed weapons permits," tweeted the Governor, "they should know I do."

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"We have informed the agencies who received our request to disregard it. We’ve informed the agencies who have responded that their records will be destroyed," wrote Anthony Ronzio, director of news and new media at the Bangor Daily News. "The BDN regrets that its request for information may have been taken as a personal attack on concealed carry permit holders, some of whom work at the BDN."

"Unfortunately," the notice continued, "these conversations have been trumped by rampant misinformation about our request, as well as swift political opportunism. It’s clear that as a state, and as a nation, we still have much to do to generate light in this debate, instead of heat."

The head of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, Gov. Paul LePage and legislative Republicans blasted the newspaper for its request, which went out Wednesday to the Maine Department of Public Safety and all municipal police departments that track permit data.

The incident echoed criticism surrounding a New York newspaper, which published an interactive map of permit-holder in two of three counties in its coverage area in December, shortly after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

But the Bangor newspaper said they wouldn't have published identifying information, and the request was part of background research relating to reporting projects on drug abuse and domestic violence.

"The BDN never would have published personally identifying information of any permit holder in Maine, as a newspaper in New York had done," Ronzio wrote Thursday. "To have done so would have been irresponsible to our readers and our communities."

That didn't placate critics, who raised concerns about privacy and used social media to launch campaigns calling for customers to boycott advertisers and cancel their newspaper subscriptions.

If they weren't going to publish the data, "I would question exactly what they want the information for," said David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine, on Thursday.

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