Concealed Weapons Permit Bill Brought to State House
A moratorium that temporarily shields the private information of concealed firearm permit holders expires next month.On Tuesday in Augusta, the public got to weigh in on a bill that would make the information permanently private.A request by the Bangor Daily News for the names, addresses and birthdays of all concealed firearm permit holders in Maine sparked a public outrage. Tuesday, a large crowd packed the State House committee room, most of them to support Augusta Republican Corey Wilson’s proposal to keep that information private.”Well, the whole point of having concealed carry is so no one knows I have a gun right?” Waldoboro resident Duncan Morrell says he doesn’t want his private information to be part of a shopping list for potential thieves. The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine was among the large contingent here supporting the measure.”Really for us this is a public safety issue,” said Executive Director of the alliance, David Trahan. “A lot of people have their permits to protect themselves. Some have been assaulted. In my case, I had my concealed permit because I had death threats made against me.”While most of those who turned out here are in favor of the bill, there are those who say shielding information is a bad idea.”This really isn’t a gun control or a gun rights bill,” said Shenna Bellows of ACLU of Maine. “It’s a government secrecy bill. Secrecy breeds mistrust.”Opponents have argued the bill sets a dangerous precedent of secrecy, but the bill’s sponsor points out this bill is far from the first exemption to the Freedom of Access Act.”We’ve exempted a number of documents,” said Republican Representative Corey Wilson. “483 documents currently are exempted from FOAA in the state of Maine. This is no different than any of those other exemptions except that we have a sincere public safety interest here.”Wilson says the measure protects victims of domestic abuse who get a concealed firearms permit for protection, but opponents of the bill say that protection is a two-way street.”There may be certain circumstances where it makes perfect sense to conceal some of the permit information, for example if a woman has a protection of abuse order, but when you make those records confidential it means she can’t find out if her abuser has a concealed weapons permit so it slices both ways,” said Suzanne Goucher of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition.The committee will decide next week whether to pass the measure out of committee. If they do it faces further votes in the House and the Senate.