Politics

February 12, 2013

Maine bill would make concealed-carry info private

Supporters say concealed-weapon carriers are mostly law-abiding citizens, so there's no reason to have their names and addresses be public record.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — A New York newspaper's decision to publish the names and addresses of concealed-weapon permit-holders has prompted an Augusta lawmaker to file a bill to prevent that from happening in Maine.

click image to enlarge

In this January 2013 file photo, Rep. Corey Wilson, second from left, looks over a table of weapons with two other lawmakers and Richard Beausoleil, right, of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency at the Senator Inn and Spa in Augusta. Wilson, R-Augusta, has submitted a bill that would make information contained in concealed-carry permits private.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Freshman Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, has submitted a bill that would make information contained in concealed-carry permits -- such as names, addresses and dates of birth -- confidential. It would also make it illegal for the media or others with access to that information to disseminate it.

Wilson said those who carry concealed weapons are typically law-abiding citizens who have had to pass background checks.

"I just couldn't think of any good reason for why this should be publicly available," Wilson said. "It makes it easy for criminals to identify where the guns are."

In December, The Journal News, a newspaper serving three suburban counties outside New York City, published an interactive map listing the names and addresses of concealed weapon permit-holders in two of the three counties.

Wilson, a former Marine, said his bill was prompted by the newspaper's action and attempts to pre-empt any attempt to publish the names, addresses and birth dates of Maine permit-holders.

He said he submitted the bill -- which has more than 60 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors -- on behalf of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, a nonprofit that promotes hunting, fishing, wildlife preservation, land conservation and gun owners' rights.

Wilson said he owns a gun, but he wouldn't say whether he holds a concealed-weapon permit.

"This was not in any way targeted toward newspapers or any member of the media," Wilson said. "It's just a mechanism of hopefully preventing who may have, in my opinion, not-good intentions (in sharing) this information."

The New York newspaper's decision was condemned by many, including other media outlets, who said the database could provide criminals with information on which households contain firearms. The newspaper removed the database last month.

In January, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a package of gun-control measures in New York state that included a provision that allows permit-holders to request their information be kept private.

It was the first major state gun-control overhaul since Dec. 14, when 26 students and teachers were killed by gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

According to a January USA Today article, Maine is one of 14 states that allows access to the names of concealed-weapon permit-holders. Vermont doesn't issue permits, and 35 states don't allow access to names or other personal information.

Maine law requires the authority that issues a permit -- either Maine State Police or municipal police departments -- to keep a file of permits issued, and all information on the permits is available to the public.

State law says a permit must contain a name, address, signature and physical description of the holder, along with the dates the permit was issued and will expire. The permit also may contain a photograph of the holder.

"There's a lot of personal information in there," said Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey.

Lt. Scott Ireland, head of the Maine State Police's licensing division, which processes permits for more than 300 municipalities and all townships and unorganized territories, said his office would allow the public to inspect permits, as required by law, but would not hand out information from large numbers of permits or allow photos of permit-holders to be made public.

(Continued on page 2)

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