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Maine Senate OKs concealed weapons confidentiality

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Senate on Wednesday went along with the House and approved a bill that allows personal information on concealed weapons permits — until recently open for public review under the state’s Freedom of Access law — to be kept confidential.

The Senate voted 27-8 in favor of the bill, one day after the House passed the measure by an overwhelming majority. The bill still faces final House and Senate votes.

In both chambers, lawmakers turned back an amendment that would have kept permit records open except for certain protected groups, such as police officers, judges, prosecutors and those protected by court orders.

But lawmakers, stung by public outrage over a newspaper’s request for all concealed weapons permit data in every Maine town and city, opted to close records that could personally identify permit holders. The bill would also allow public release of aggregate information about concealed weapons permits, as well as information such as the permit holder’s gender, town, date of issuance and expiration date.

Supporters said the bill balances the interests of privacy with the need to keep government records open.

“This is a good day for gun owners in Maine,” Senate Republican Leader Michael Thibodeau of Winterport said after the vote. “There is no valid reason for the confidential information of concealed weapons permit holders to be distributed to the public, and this will ensure that doesn’t happen.”

The issue comes up days before a moratorium on the release of any concealed weapons permit information is due to expire. The moratorium was adopted soon after the Bangor Daily News filed requests to municipalities and police across the state for information about all of Maine’s concealed weapons holders through the state’s Freedom of Access law. The newspaper said it never intended to publish identifying information.

Still, lawmakers remembered the fallout after a New York newspaper published the names of local concealed weapons permit holders in interactive maps shortly after the Dec. 14 school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The chain of reactions prompted Sen. Stanley Gerzofsky to dismiss the bill to close Maine’s permit records as “a reaction to a reaction to a reaction.”

“I don’t want the people of the state of Maine shortchanged in the process,” said the Brunswick Democrat.

The moratorium on releases of personally identifying information is to end next Tuesday. Because the bill voted on Wednesday is an emergency, it would take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

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