March 13, 2013

Big push for gun-data shield at Maine hearing

Supporters seek privacy protection for concealed weapons-permit holders, but critics fear that public oversight of officials will be compromised.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, introduces his bill L.D. 345, An Act to Ensure the Confidentiality of Concealed Weapons Permit Holder Information, before the Judiciary Committee Tuesday at the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Rep. Paul McGowan, D-York, testifies about L.D. 345 in a crowded hearing before the Judiciary Committee Tuesday at the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Rep. Wilson introduces L.D. 345
Audio of Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, introducing his bill L.D. 345 before Judiciary Committee.

Much of Tuesday’s testimony centered on suspicion about the media’s intentions. Jeremy Hiltz of Chelsea said “gun-grabbing” media outlets are in league with liberal politicians to limit gun rights.
Hiltz was one of 24 non-legislators to testify for the bill, as opposed to three against.

Other arguments were constitutional: Blaine Richardson of Belfast, a former Republican primary candidate for Congress, said concealed-weapons permits are themselves unconstitutional.

“I don’t need your permission to carry any weapon,” he said.

In February, however, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that concealed carry is not a right, and “our nation has a lengthy history of restricting the concealed carry of firearms.”

According to the Maine Department of Public Safety, there have been 10 requests for identifying permit information since 2003. The Bangor newspaper’s request was the only one by a media outlet – seven of the requests were filed by data-collection firms that create voter databases.

In February, national media picked up stories of the newspaper’s request, and the newspaper was barraged with criticism.

In his testimony, Wilson seized upon national precedent to make his case: In January, before Maine temporarily shielded the information, it was one of 14 states that allowed identifying information to be made public. Every state but Illinois currently allows concealed-carry, but four states, Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming, allow it without permits.

The uproar over requests for information on permit holders started when The Journal News, a suburban New York City newspaper that published an interactive map of permit holders in two counties soon after the December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 students and educators.

The Bangor newspaper’s claim that it never intended to publish personal information didn’t wash with gun-rights activists and legislative Republicans, and it didn’t blunt legislators’ responses. Republican leaders, including Gov. Paul LePage, condemned the newspaper’s actions.

“It is not my right to know whether or not my neighbor is taking certain medications, any more than it is my right to know whether or not he or she owns firearms,” said LePage’s chief counsel, Michael Cianchette, testifying for the governor’s office.

Democrats were mostly quiet on the request, but virtually all of them joined Republicans when the Legislature passed the emergency bill. Just 11 legislators voted against it – all House Democrats or independents.

A spokeswoman for Senate Democrats has said her caucus is divided on the measure.

“Committee members know there are strong emotions on both sides of this issue,” said Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, in a prepared statement Tuesday morning. “Maine is a (right-to-know) state, and we want to balance that against an individual’s right to privacy.”
A House Republicans spokesman has said that his party is “100 percent united” on the issue.

Wilson said he’s open to the middle-ground amendment. Also supporting it is the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

A work session on Wilson’s bill is scheduled for March 21 at 1 p.m.

State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 to correct the number of states that don't issue concealed-weapon permits.

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, testifies Tuesday afternoon in support of a bill he is sponsoring that would shield data on concealed-weapon permit holders.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Spectators watch from hallway during hearing on L.D. 345 in a crowded hearing before the Judiciary Committee Tuesday at the State House in Augusta. There were people seated in at least two other hearing rooms listening in.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

 


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