Should Maine concealed weapons permits be private?

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March 12, 2013, 8:32 pm
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(NECN: Amy Sinclair) - An overflow crowd of gun rights supporters packed a hearing room at the state capitol in Maine Tuesday.

At issue was whether or not concealed weapons permits should be a matter of public record or be kept confidential.

An estimated 30,000 Mainers have concealed weapons permits. George Skolfield of Harpswell has had his for more than 20 years, but like most of the people packing this hearing room, he'd just as soon not have everyone know about it.

"I don't think that info should be public, there are plenty of other areas that are private," Skolfield said. "This is one of them."

LD 345 would ensure the confidentiality of concealed weapons permit holder information.

"These are not individuals that you or I need to fear. These are people that pass federal, state background checks, mental health screenings. They do it every four years," said Rep. Corey Walker, the bill's sponsor.

What the gun owners are hoping to avoid is a repeat of what happened at The Journal News in suburban New York. The paper published an interactive map that included the names and addresses of thousands of permit holders and some of those permit holders received threats, so when a Maine  newspaper requested similar information last month, some Maine permit holders said they became concerned about their own safety.

"In my case, I have a permit because of death threats, and when you create a road map for the bad guys and that scares people," said David Trahan, Executive Director for the Sportman's Alliance of Maine.

But the Maine Civil Liberties Union points out this information has been public in Maine since without incident.

"This  really isn't a gun control bill, it's a government secrecy bill," said the MCLU's Shenna Bellows.

The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition raised similar questions.

"If the records are hidden, then how do we know if they're being issued properly? who polices the police in those situations?" said coalition president Suzanna Goucher.

It will now be up to lawmakers to weigh the public's need to know against these questions of public safety.

If the bill passes, Maine would become the 36th state to keep permit holder information confidential.

Tags: maine, Amy Sinclair, gun control, gun rights advocates, concealed weapon permit
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