Yesterday, Maine Republican legislative leaders hastily called a press conference to voice their opposition to a Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request by the Bangor Daily News seeking information on concealed weapon permit holders from all police departments in the state. The paper indicated that they were not intending to use this information for publication, rather for data research in ongoing reporting.
Representative Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) has introduced a bill, L.D. 345, An Act To Ensure the Confidentiality of Concealed Weapons Permit Holder Information,” which has more than 60 cosponsors. In a media interview earlier in the week, before the FOAA request was known, Representative Wilson indicated that he introduced the legislation at the request of the Sportsman Alliance of Maine (SAM).
The press conference got testy when Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau (R – District 23) and House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette (R – Newport) were asked if their intent was to further shield public information on other documents such as voter registration, burn permits and drivers licenses. Thibodeau replied that “gun owners have not broken any laws and they deserve to have privacy.” No responses were given to whether other matters of public record should be protected.
Thibodeau further stated his feeling that Mainers don’t like their information being available:
The Sportsman Alliance of Maine is one organization that has repeatedly used the FOAA laws to obtain personal information from state agencies is against the release of concealed weapons data. David Trahan, the Executive Director of SAM voiced opposition to making the data available and sent an action alert to members urging them to contact the Bangor Daily to express their thoughts on the FOAA request and to contact their legislator to support Wilson’s bill making concealed weapons data confidential.
The Sportman Alliance of Maine has regularly requested from the State Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (IFW) personal information on purchasers of hunting and fishing licenses. This information has been used by SAM to send email and paper mailings to a group of individuals who in theory would be allies to their organization in order to recruit members.
Former Exective Director George Smith stated:
For many years I have been purchasing DIF&W’s entire list of licensees including names and mailing addresses. The list served as a principle means of prospecting for new SAM members and allowed us to send our messages to the entire constituency of sportsmen.
The Republican leaders used the press conference to urge the democratic leadership who set the legislative calendar to fast-track Representative Wilson’s bill as it is emergency legislation. With dozens of gun related bills introduced this session, including additional pieces dealing with concealed weapons, the timing of legislative action on the proposal is unclear at this time. Currently the bill has been referred by the House to the Judiciary Committee and is pending Senate reference.