Temporary measure to protect concealed carry permit holders passes easily

Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013 in News

Temporary measure to protect concealed carry permit holders passes easily

Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) and Diane Russell (D-Portland) represent two sides of the contentious issue

By Andi Parkinson

AUGUSTA -- LD 576, an "emergency" bill to protect concealed carry permit holders from having their names and addresses part of the public record, passed the Legislature on Tuesday.  The bill is temporary; that is, it will only be in effect for 60 days unless legislators choose to make it permanent.

While Democrats and Republicans joined together on the temporary measure, there were deep divisions.  Some lawmakers were uneasy because the bill passed without public input.  Others were concerned about the constitutional showdown between the first amendment's guarantee of a free press and a right to privacy for gun owners.

This right does not really exist in the second amendment, and even if it did, would be limited to government intrusion; since the government is the agency that requires a concealed carry permit, that intrusion is not blocked by this bill.  In essence, the bill creates a special right for people with a particular kind of gun permit, a permit that allows them to carry a concealed weapon into public buildings, banks, stores, and many schools.

The furor started when the Bangor Daily News filed a Freedom of Access request to get the names of people with concealed carry permits in Maine.  The BDN said it did not intend to publish the names.  Its purpose was statistical only.  However, the response by gun owners was nothing short of astonishing.  The BDN rescinded its request.  Gov. Paul LePage went on record opposing the request, as he has opposed several other requests for access to government data, and the Legislature went into defensive posture.

Gun owners say they are worried about burglars getting access to information about what firearms are in their home.

Civil rights advocates say they are concerned about the erosion of the first amendment with regard to the press, which they say serves as a watchdog for government.

In the Legislature, Diane Russell, D-Portland, said she was mostly concerned that a public process was not followed, with public input. 

"I would like to point out for the record that we are voting on a bill today that would limit the public’s right to know- and we are doing so, without a public hearing," she said.  "This is a bad public process precisely because there has not been a public process.  I also wanted an opportunity to allow the public to weigh in on this, and as Representative Brooks stated, it is the part I staunchly oppose. I will vote for the 60 days today, but I’d like the record to show that this is not a good process. We are much better than this.”

Asst. House Majority Leader Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, who, together with Asst. Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson,  Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Asst. House Minority Leader Alex Willette, sponsored the legislation, thanked everyone for their support. 

"I am glad that Democrats and Republicans could come together to provide some breathing room around this highly sensitive issue and provide this temporary shield and I personally feel that this will allow us to informatively and carefully evaluate this complex matter.  I think this measure deserves all of our support," he said.

Governor Paul R. LePage signed the measure on Tuesday, which goes into effect immediately.

The sixty-day window will give the Legislature time to review Representative Corey Wilson’s bill (LD 345), which would make this information permanently private.

“I applaud the Legislature for expediting this matter,” said Governor LePage. “Now the debate can continue in the Legislature based on the merits of the bill while ensuring safety for all Mainers."

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