Published Date Written by David CarkhuffLegislators on Tuesday passed a 60-day moratorium that suspends a nearly weeklong skirmish over the state's handling of information about concealed firearms permit holders.
Governor Paul LePage signed the emergency bill, which takes effect immediately, to temporarily block the release of concealed firearms permit holders' names, addresses and dates of birth to the public, according to the governor's office. LePage submitted the legislation Friday in response to information requests received by law enforcement agencies across the state.
Last Thursday, LePage responded to news that the Bangor Daily News was requesting the names and addresses of concealed weapons permit holders from law enforcement agencies across the state.
"I have serious concerns that BDN's request will incite fear among gun owners and non-gun owners alike regarding their safety," LePage said. "There is no reason why these records should be public and I encourage the Legislature to act quickly to make this personal information confidential."
On Friday, Maine GOP Chairman Rich Cebra called on Mainers of all political parties to contact their legislators to support LePage's emergency legislation.
"Swift action and a massive public outcry have forced the Bangor Daily News to rescind their request to acquire this information before it can be protected under the law," Cebra said, referring to the newspaper's decision not to pursue the Freedom of Access Act request for the permit holder information. "Unfortunately we have just learned that an anonymous group, calling themselves 'Celebration Connect' is seeking to capitalize on this vulnerability by filing anonymous FOAA requests to pick up where the Bangor Daily News request left off."
In response, on Tuesday, the Maine Legislature approved the emergency legislation, LD 576. The legislation is designed to serve as a temporary solution to the concealed weapon permit issue while the Legislature considers a separate bill submitted by Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, that would make the confidentiality of permit holders permanent, according to Republican legislators.
Senate Republican Leader Michael Thibodeau helped broker an agreement on language for the bill with Democrat leadership in the Legislature.
"In all my time serving in the Legislature, I cannot recall an issue that has generated such a passionate response from my constituents," Thibodeau said. "I'm hearing similar things from all of my colleagues. I think people recognize that this is a commonsense measure that needs to be taken immediately to protect gun owners and non-owners, alike."
Not everyone was happy with the result. Maine Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, wrote on Facebook, "It's a 60-day moratorium so that we can actually have a public process that would otherwise not have happened. This is the part of the sausage factory that is exclusively about politics, and not about policy."
Making a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" analogy, Russell added, "I was thrown into Harrison Ford's snake pit and asked to make the best choice."