Editorial: Dueling amendments

Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013 in Opinion

Editorial: Dueling amendments

On Tuesday, the Maine Legislature passed 'emergency' legislation to prevent people from knowing whether our neighbors are able to murder us at the bank, at restaurants, in our cars, in our schools.

These neighbors, and we use the term advisedly, are people who have concealed carry permits for their handguns.  They can bring these guns into a local coffee shop, they can bring them onto mass transit, they can carry them virtually anywhere that doesn't have a metal detector, and even then, in some cases, they can bring them right through because the state, in its infinite wisdom, decided to grant these people a 'permit'.

Now some people need guns ... police, for instance.  I think we could all agree to that.  And in some limited cases, women who have been the victims of domestic violence should  have the right to carry, but the better solution there is to throw the scumbag in jail and throw away the key.  I think we might even all agree to that.

But the average joe with little man syndrome has no need to carry a gun about.  This is Maine, for heaven's sake.  You don't even have to lock your car or your house when you leave.  You certainly don't have to carry a gun in your ample waistband.

Just recently, someone was arrested outside a local Starbucks when he confessed to the police that he was carrying a gun, but had not yet received his concealed carry permit.  When he showed back up to get his stuff, the police had already given him back the gun.  They'd never have even known the joker had the gun if he hadn't confessed that his permit hadn't come in the mail yet.  The only rationale the guy apparently had for even owning a gun in the first place was impressing the chick-barristas, and they didn't seem too damn impressed.

But it's always nice to know a marginal personality is hanging around the coffee shop where one spends time with a gun, isn't it?

Well, no, in fact, it's not all that comforting.

What's even less comforting is the contortions the Legislature went through to 'protect' people who have ... well, protection already ... from the rest of us, who are just ordinary people with kitchen knives and the odd baseball bat. 

And they did it by upholding a nebulous second amendment right at the expense of a very, very clear first amendment right.

The Bangor Daily News had every right to petition the state for information in the public domain.  They are the press, and as such, have an entirely indisputible first amendment right to do what the press does ... ferret out public domain information, and, if they wish, publish it.  This emergency legislation ... and let's be honest, what was the emergency here anyway? ... completely undermined the BDN's right to a free press, and the New Maine Times' right, and the New York Times' right, and even Fox News' right. 

A constitutional challenge is coming, and the legislators should have realized that they can't get away with this indefinitely.  But for some unknown and unhappy reason, the second amendment seems to be more equal than the other constitutional protections.  This cannot stand.

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