April 24, 2013

Maine Senate passes bill to shield concealed-gun data

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — A bill to shield identifying information on concealed-handgun permits, strongly supported by Maine's gun-rights grassroots, was approved by a two-thirds majority in the Maine Senate on Wednesday.

The bill will go to Gov. Paul LePage's desk after procedural votes.

The measure passed the Senate 27-8, suggesting it will get the two-thirds recommendation necessary for the bill to take effect as emergency legislation upon LePage's signature. The House approved the bill Tuesday on a 106-40 vote.

The bill, L.D. 345, sponsored by Rep. Corey Wilson, was backed by the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, the National Rifle Association and the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, among other groups.

It would make names, dates of birth and addresses of permit holders confidential and allow the release of aggregate statistical data, such as the number of applications and permits issued, revoked or suspended. The gender, towns of residence and age ranges of permit holders would also be public.

The bill gained momentum after a public records request to the state from the Bangor Daily News for information on all permits was condemned by Republican lawmakers, including Gov. Paul LePage. 

A public hearing on the bill in March was dominated by gun-rights proponents who supported Wilson's bill. They far outnumbered public-access advocates, led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and media groups.

Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, said during Senate floor debate Wednesday that the bill is a "reaction to a reaction to a reaction that never really had anything to do with our state."

Gerzofsky said he was concerned that the bill would leave concealed-handgun data in the hands of "Big Brother" – the government – and members of the public wouldn't be able to oversee it.

Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, who authored an amendment to the bill providing for the release of aggregate permit data, said she was "stunned" at the backing for the measure shown at public hearings. She said her support was secured by testimony from police and domestic violence advocates.

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