Bangor Daily News Under Siege After Requesting Gun Owners Private Information
Republicans in Augusta are outraged at the Bangor Daily News after the newspaper requested the names and addresses of all concealed weapons permit holders in Maine.Republican leadership, along with Governor Lepage and organizations like the Sportsmanâ€™s Alliance of Maine, have come out swinging against the newspaper, saying Mainers deserve better. “They expect news,” said Mike Thibodeau, a Winterport Republican. “They don’t expect them to engage in tabloid type activity and this is beneath the Bangor Daily News to engage in this activity in my opinion. I would encourage them to abandon this process and let us go about our work.”It all stems from the Freedom of Access Act, or FOAA, request, the newspaper filed with multiple police organizations.In the request, the Bangor Daily asks police to make available for inspection and copying the names, addresses and dates of birth of Maineâ€™s concealed weapons permit holders.This request comes on the heels of Augusta Republican Corey Wilsonâ€™s bill that would make that information private. Wilson said he proposed the bill after a New York newspaper published the names and addresses of concealed weapons permit holders in that state. Wilson said police in New York arrested a man carrying the newspaper’s list around and burglarizing those houses. “In New York they used geocoding and overlaid it over a Google map, so you had a nice Google map of where everyone who had a concealed weapons permit was located,” Wilson said. “The result of that is you had people who were threatened. Their lives their families lives were threatened. That to me is unacceptable and we need to prevent that from happening in the state of Maine.”Republicans say the BDN request does nothing more than harass law abiding gun owners and fan the political flames. “In the light of Newtown, our country and certainly our state is at a time when issues of gun ownership at the top of the political agenda. But it’s not a time when we should be politicizing it,” said Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette. “This request today we believe, politicizes it. It makes it worse.”Republicans called on Democrats to help them fast track the bill to help shield this information. “This is not something that the entire Democratic leadership has taken up,” said Skowhegan Democrat Jeff McCabe. “This is definitely me speaking at first read of this issue and reacting to the BDN. I have a meeting later on and I will discuss this matter with the speaker.” McCabe added that he does believe the private information of concealed weapons permit holders should remain private. Representative Wilson said his bill has roughly 60 co-sponsors, including Democrats.Governor Lepage has also weighed in on the subject. â€œIf newspapers would like to know who has concealed weapons permits, then they should know the Governor has his,” Lepage said in a statement. “I have serious concerns that BDNâ€™s request will incite fear among gun owners and non-gun owners alike regarding their safety. There is no reason why these records should be public and I encourage the Legislature to act quickly to make this personal information confidential.”The Bangor Daily News released an editorial statement on its website Thursday afternoon trying to explain their actions to outraged readers. “The BDN requested the records of concealed weapons permits as part of long-term reporting projects on domestic violence, sexual assault and drug abuse,” the statement written by staffer Anthony Ronzio reads. It goes on to say, “The BDN has never had any intention to release identifying information about permit holders, and said so in our request. We recognize how sensitive this information is, and made sure police agencies knew of this intent.”Republicans and others are calling on the newspaper to withdraw the request. Even if Wilson’s bill passes, Republicans say it probably wouldn’t be soon enough to keep police from being forced to comply with the BDN’s wishes, unless the paper acquiesces to the pressure and withdraws the request.