Maine Senate Passes Bill to Make Handgun Permit Information Private

By Michael Dougherty

Following the tone set by Maine members of the House of Representatives, last Wednesday senators from the state of Maine approved LD 345. This bill aims to make most of the information on concealed handgun permits in Maine confidential, closing a set of records that have been “public” for the better part of 30 years.

The House of Representatives approved the bill 106-40, while the Senate voted 27-8 in favor of the bill. Both have obtained the two-thirds majority that is needed to present the bill to Gov. Paul LePage for final approval. The bill can be put into effect immediately following the signature of LePage.

“This is a bill about privacy. This is not a bill about guns,” Senator Linda Valentino, D-Saco, said while introducing the bill. This bill is an attempt to balance the public’s access to government information with the privacy of individuals who have state permission to carry a concealed handgun.

Supporters of the bill, which includes the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the Maine State Police, use victims of domestic violence as an example of people who might have gun permits and whose identities need to be protected. On the other side of the argument are the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and the Maine Press Association. These groups as well as several senators, including Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, think the permit data should remain open and used as a check on the government to ensure applicants are fairly treated and not discriminated against.

Gerzofsky stated that, despite assurances that the state police can handle any additional workload as a result of this bill, he had concerns because it’s yet another job for them. “We don’t fund them for it. No, we just tell them we want them to do it,” Gerzofsky said. He questioned what other police work would not get done because of it.

In the 30-plus years that Maine’s data was open, there had been no documented problems with the system, Gerzofsky said. “It’s a reaction to a reaction to a reaction,” Gerzofsky said. “We never really had a problem in our state.”

On both sides of the issue, one thing all involved seem to agree on, is that it’s been an emotional time for everyone. “We hope once this debate is done, we can get back to doing some of the other things that are important to our membership, including protection of our natural resources,” David Trahan, a former state senator and current executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine said after the vote. “We’re relieved that the bill is moving forward.”