THE “P” WORD

When I was selected as a permit holder in the 2011 Maine Moose Permit Lottery my mailbox was inundated with offers and sales pitches from Maine Guides and outfitters who wanted me to pay for their services. That’s because the list of selected moose hunters, our addresses, and our permit details were public information that was distributed to anyone who requested it from the Dept. of Inland Fish & Wildlife. My name, town of residence and permit details were also published in nearly every state newspaper.

When I purchase a firearms hunting license each year – the information I am required to provide, including my physical address, is available to anyone who makes a request for the records from the Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife. The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine made a big fuss in 2010 when the department initially was reluctant to release these records. SAM won.

This week the Maine legislature passed a bill requiring that the names and addresses of concealed weapons permit holders be excluded from public information. “This is a bill about privacy. This is not a bill about guns,” Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, said, introducing the bill.

Last summer, those same Maine legislators were driving all over their districts with a voter registration list in their hands. Those lists detailed the name, address and political party affiliation of every registered voter in their legislative district. The legislators got these lists from the town clerks who are required to turn the list over to anyone who requests it as public record.

I fully expect that the details of my Maine Guide license, my license to practice law, my driver’s license and my dog license are also available for the public to review if they wish to do so. I’m sure this would make for some fascinating reading. None of this is shocking to me.

I do not possess a concealed weapon permit. I have never applied for one. And despite more than 20 years of confronting and prosecuting criminals in Maine courts — I have never felt the need to carry a concealed weapon during my daily activities.

Applications for concealed weapon permits in this state have doubled or tripled in the last few years. The crime rate in Maine has remained relatively flat during this same period of time. It’s easy to conclude that the permits are being sought as some sort of a hedge against future regulation, or as symbols of membership in the “Don’t Tread On Me” club.

That’s fine. But what part of applying for a permit to allow a person to be excluded from a general law against carrying concealed firearms should make it confidential?

It’s not about safety. Permit holders are no less safe than deer hunters when the address of their home (which is likely to contain a firearm) is made public. Also, in my experience home burglars almost never file a Freedom of Information Act request prior to choosing a home as a target.

It’s not about exercising constitutional rights. What right could be more precious than our right to vote? But we freely distribute voter registration information.

It’s not about embarrassment – most permit holders seem truly proud of their status – view the Governor’s recent Twitter post where he gleefully displayed his own concealed weapons permit for the camera.

It’s not about privacy, folks — it’s about paranoia.

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About jimandrews

Jim Andrews is an attorney, Registered Maine Guide, writer, husband, dad and sixth-generation Mainer who grew up in the hills of Oxford County and now lives in Farmington. He is a monthly columnist for the The Maine Sportsman magazine where he focuses on muscle-powered travel in the outdoors and specific applications to fishing and hunting in Maine. Late in the fall of 2010 Jim suffered a mid-life crisis and decided that the cure would be a self-propelled trip from Kittery to Fort Kent in the summer of 2012. The preparation, planning and execution of that trip will be covered here -- as well as his own ongoing attempts to reintroduce physical effort back into the increasingly-motorized world of fishing and hunting in Maine.