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.