Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Sen. Michael Thibodeau
When a Maine newspaper recently requested personal information, including names and addresses, of every concealed-weapon permit holder in Maine, the outrage was immediate and strong.
It also was to be expected, and for good reason: Mainers view gun ownership as an issue of liberty and freedom granted to them by the framers of our Constitution, and they saw the paper's action as an assault on their rights.
The Bangor Daily News' request came shortly after a New York newspaper, following the Sandy Hook tragedy, published an online, interactive map that provided the names and addresses of concealed-weapon permit holders in its county.
New York's State Assembly moved quickly to make this information confidential, and Maine is well on its way to passing similar legislation.
The Bangor Daily News stated in its request to police agencies that it didn't "intend" to publicize the data. But given what happened in New York, there was an understandable distrust among gun owners here who saw the request as the latest example of the rights of law-abiding gun owners being questioned following a massacre perpetrated by a criminal.
Concealed-weapon permit holders were understandably concerned that their personal information would be displayed in the local media as it was in New York.
Whenever one of these tragedies occurs, gun-control advocates and many lawmakers at the federal and state level begin to point the finger at responsible gun owners. There is always the predictable debate about what sorts of guns need to be banned and how many rounds of ammunition are acceptable in a clip.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently stated, "No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer." I would point out to him that no one "needs" to drive a car with a 350-horsepower engine, but as Americans, we are free to make the conscious decision to purchase one. The same applies to our right to own guns.
Most of the recent gun-control rhetoric misses the point. The U.S. Constitution makes clear, and the Maine State Constitution makes even clearer, that it is not the government's role to determine whether law-abiding citizens have the right to possess weapons, and if so, how many weapons and rounds of ammunition they can keep.
Article 1, Section 16, of the Maine Constitution states, "Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned."
Responsible gun owners in Maine have plenty of reason to believe that this fundamental right is, indeed, being questioned.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, dozens of gun control bills have been submitted to the Legislature for the current session. Each one of these will get a fair hearing before the appropriate committees.
As the Senate Republican leader, however, I will do everything in my power to prevent any bill that compromises the rights of gun owners from becoming law.
Gov. Paul LePage recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to focus more on addressing the nation's mental health issues, which are a common thread in all of the recent mass shootings around the nation. I believe the governor is taking the right approach on this issue.
Make no mistake: Gun ownership is a right in the state of Maine, and last week's statewide outrage about a newspaper's ill-conceived plan to undermine that right demonstrates how important it is to our citizens.
Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, is the Senate minority leader.