Thursday, April 17, 2014
By Steve Mistler firstname.lastname@example.org
State House Bureau
A bill sponsored by state Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, to permanently shield the identifying information of concealed-weapons permit holders has become a cause celebre for Republicans, who have used the controversy to mobilize gun rights activists.
The issue is right in Republicans' wheelhouse. It gives them an opportunity to defend the Second Amendment and gun owners, even though Wilson's bill is inherently about privacy and the public's right to know.
Republicans also get to hammer one of their favorite targets: the news media.
Perhaps nobody has done this more effectively than David Trahan, the Republican former state senator from Waldoboro, and now the director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine.
Trahan was a big advocate of government transparency when he was a state senator. He played a significant role in the hearings that exposed fiscal mismanagement of the Maine Turnpike Authority.
Trahan is also a pretty skilled operator. He played a significant role in the 2010 citizens veto of the tax reform law passed by the Legislature, an effort that some believe energized Republicans during their electoral sweep of the State House and the Blaine House.
Recently, Trahan has proven adept at mobilizing gun owners over the concealed-weapons data flap. He's also mixed it up with the news media. In a March 1 Current Publishing opinion column, Trahan took the media to task for wrapping itself "in the flag of the freedom of access law."
He wrote that "some unethical members of the media have created this crisis. Worse, the rest have failed to police their ranks." The most interesting passage in Trahan's commentary is about the anonymous and curiously timed Freedom of Access Act request from "CelebrationConnect" that lawmakers later said prompted them to enact the emergency shield on concealed-weapons permit holder data.
Trahan questioned whether a news organization had submitted the request.
"Could we surmise these latest FOAA requests for concealed permit holders are also press outlets attempting to avoid the same backlash as the Bangor Daily News?" he wrote. "Does anyone else recognize the incredible hypocrisy of journalists using a loophole in the FOAA law to hide their identity and then claiming they support transparency and accountability for everyone else?"
Trahan never identified which journalists he was referring to, but his theory begs an obvious question: If a news organization succeeded in obtaining the concealed-weapons permit information secretly, then how would it ever use this data for publication and not be discovered?
Also, the Sun Journal uncovered an interesting tidbit about CelebrationConnect: The individual or group also requested employee, contract details and staff emails while the Legislature's watchdog arm was investigating the turnpike authority.
That begs another question. If CelebrationConnect is, as Trahan suggests, the unethical journalist hiding from gun activists' backlash, is CelebrationConnect also the same unethical journalist who sought turnpike authority records anonymously in an attempt to escape the backlash from ... toll payers?
The Legislature's decision to legalize fireworks in 2011 has generated a mixed response.
While some people seem to think the decision was a good one, numerous letters to the editor, online comments and police complaints show that a lot of people are unhappy about it.
The law allowed municipalities to restrict or prohibit the use of fireworks, but some people complained that the regulations couldn't be enforced.
On Monday, lawmakers on the Criminal Justice Committee will take up five different proposals to further regulate fireworks.
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