Hearing on Concealed Weapon Permit FOAA Exemption Draws Crowd

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AUGUSTA – The 4th floor committee room in the State House overflowed with outspoken citizens on Tuesday as the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Rep. Corey S. Wilson’s (R-Augusta) bill to exempt concealed weapon permit information from Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) requests.

“I was extremely pleased with the number of supporters who turned out for the hearing,” said Wilson. “I was satisfied with the testimony offered on behalf of my bill,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the work session.”

The FOAA exemption Wilson is asking for is not unprecedented and would add to the 483 exemptions provided for in current law. The information he is seeking to exempt includes the names, birth dates, addresses and physical descriptions of all concealed weapons permit holders.

A total of 31 people testified at the hearing—27 in support of the bipartisan measure, three in opposition, and one neither for nor against—according to the records of the committee clerk.

“I was surprised to see that the Maine Civil Liberties Union was opposing the bill,” said Wilson. “But I think it’s pretty significant that the three people who spoke against it were paid to be there,” he said. “There were 27 people who sacrificed their time and wages to come to the hearing and support my bill.”

“Who is more important, someone paid to be there or someone who is a concerned citizen?” asked Wilson.

Several Republican lawmakers also expressed approval of Tuesday’s hearing.

“Mainers have spoken, and they have made it clear that their right to bear arms is unduly suppressed by the reality that anybody can find out if they are carrying a concealed weapon,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport).

“Having this private information out in the open eliminates the advantage to personal protection that comes with concealed-carry and subjects permit holders to burglary and simple invasions of privacy.  I’m pleased that the bill has received such broad, bipartisan support so far and I believe strongly that it should become law,” said Fredette.

The Maine Sheriff’s Association and the Maine Police Chiefs’ Association support the bill for public safety reasons, according to a press release from the House Republican Office.

“This bill is about protecting the privacy, safety, and constitutional rights of Maine gun-owners,” said Assistant House Republican Leader Alexander Willette (R-Mapleton).

“If we can keep the identity of welfare recipients private and exempt from public access, we should be able to protect the identity of law-abiding gun-owners,” said Willette.

Although Wilson’s move to shield concealed carry permit data from FOAA inquiries has drawn significant support from lawmakers and from the public, the whole affair may be much ado about nothing, as progressive political operatives requested and acquired those records in 2011.


By S.E. Robinson

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1 COMMENT

  1. The question of excluding one group from the FOIA intrusion (although there are almost 500 other groups excluded) was raised by the paid advocates of three information seeking organizations. While protecting the Concealed Carry permit holders is paramount, I would suggest that the legislature next exclude the private information of ALL licensees. FOIA was designed to reveal government actions, not reveal the information of private citizens. The fact that the state has been supplying such information for years is irrelevant. It should stop doing so, NOW.

  2. There is a struggle here between competing interests.

    Mainers have the right to carry legal firearms openly – without a permit. That one bothers me too, but that’s a different story.

    Carrying a concealed weapon offers no advantage other than to hide the fact the bearer is armed and increase the “surprise” element if it’s pulled. The so-called “feel-good” advantage is actually a serious liability from several perspectives. But this bill isn’t even about the right to bear arms. Advocates say it’s about their privacy.

    Exempting certain records from public exposure may serve the interests of personal privacy, but having a license to carry a concealed weapon isn’t really about something anyone I know is embarrassed about or that compromises their security or integrity because it’s available as a public record.

    In fact, most of them seem to be proud to let you know their “packing.”

    The notion that a criminal looking to steal a gun would break into a house where they knew the owner was armed is preposterous.

    The claim that an individual’s right to own a firearm is suppressed if permits are public information is also baffling.

    Certainly there are rights to personal privacy, but there is also the right of the public to know and to assemble and analyze data from the public record for very legitimate public policy reasons. In my view, the latter is more compelling.

  3. I try to, Martha. Seriously. I own a rifle and I enjoy shooting from time to time, but this conversation has gone on too long and it just gets crazier. There is always a balancing that’s required then rights butt heads. Owning a deadly weapon is serious business and it’s everybody’s business.

  4. Cris you apparently haven’t had to live amongst the “dirt bags” that I have to. This isn’t the old Maine of “This is Maine that doesn’t happen here”. A concealed weapons map would certainly lead to thefts. Not when the owners are home maybe but after they left for sure. Dirt bags do take notes of people’s comings and goings. As far as the open carry goes, I own a small store in Augusta and was shoplifted blind until I open carried. Its the only thing the gang banger wanna be’s respond to, surveillence cameras did nothing.

  5. Genie Jennings – “Concealed Carry” is NOT a 2nd Amendment Right. – “Peterson Vs. Martinez” Tenth Circuit, United States Court of Appeals
    February 22, 2013

    The granting of a Concealed Carry Permit then becomes a special “State Action” requested by a Citizen – and as such – that ‘State Action’ should be subject to scrutiny by the public.

  6. @Ron Riml: You have it backwards. ‘The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms…’ does not mention anything about how those arms are born. ‘Consitutional Carry’ refers to being able to carry your arms either openly or concealed. The imposition of a permitting process for carrying arms concealed should never have occurred in states like Maine which have strong ‘Second Amendment; language. As was pointed out at the hearing, citizens gave up some of their sovereignty when they ALLOWED the state to impose the concealed carry permit. The fact that jurisdictions impose improper restrictions does not make them proper. Citizens do not need to request rights. We do because somewhere along the line people stop paying attention to what is being done to remove those rights…which are never regained easily.

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