Don’t let Augusta take your rights away

Reuters photo by Andrew Innerarity.

Reuters photo by Andrew Innerarity.

Imagine if you needed a permit to write a letter to the editor. Or if you had to register your religion with the government. Or if, before contacting your elected officials, you had to undergo a background check.

All of these restrictions on our First Amendment rights would be unacceptable. Yet, as part of exercising our constitutional right to bear arms, we accept all these restrictions. Still, it’s not enough for some people. Democrats in the Legislature, intent on expanding big government at the expense of liberty, introduced a slew of bills intended to further abridge our Second Amendment rights.

These ranged from limiting what kind of weapons are sold, to limiting where they are sold, to changing who can get them. Fortunately, these — and other — assaults on liberty failed, either crashing and burning on the floor or dying quietly in committee. The rest of the Legislature recognized that Mainers treasure not only their constitutional right to bear arms, but their privacy, voting to shield the private information of concealed carry permittees.

They recognized that Mainers have a right to get those permits without having their private information plastered all over the web. This was protected not only by the new legislation sponsored by Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta — a stalwart defender of the second amendment if ever there was one — but by the system itself. As it stands, hundreds of entities across the state issue concealed carry permits, so no one breach risks exposing all of the data.

That would change under LD 222, “An Act Regarding the Issuance of a Permit To Carry a Concealed Handgun”, sponsored by Rep. Tim Marks, D-Pittston. As originally written, the bill would have given the state police sole authority to issue concealed carry permits. Given their inability to do the job they have now — there’s a two-month backlog in areas under their responsibility — the Legislature’s criminal justice committee wisely decided to abandon that approach.

Sadly, the panel did still vote out a version of the measure. The new bill still expands the power of the state police, which would be a mistake. It also forces all concealed carry permittees into one statewide database, thereby accomplishing one goal of the anti-freedom crowd. Though this information would, theoretically, be private, it does mean that if there were ever a data breach (and there probably would be) then all private information of permittees would be easily obtainable.

This drastic change of Maine’s gun laws has been pushed by a number of special interests. One of these is the police, who could more easily profile law-abiding citizens operating under the assumption that having a permit makes it more likely for somebody to be a criminal. Mainers have a right to engage in legal permits without their private information being abused by law enforcement.

Another group pushing this change is hunters, since it would increase the number of states that could grant reciprocity to Maine’s permits. Changing the law on their behalf caves to special interests without regards to the privacy rights of Mainers who want to carry concealed solely within the state. A better approach would be to implement a two-tier system: constitutional carry within the state, with an optional permit for those who want to take their guns across state lines. It would be like a passport for guns.

Right now, this legislation is sitting on the Special Appropriations Table, pending enactment. As it stands, it should be vetoed as an unnecessary infringement of constitutional rights and expansion of government. Since the Democrats rejected an attempt to attach constitutional carry multiple times, that seems likely to be its fate. If it is, it would be well deserved, and should be sustained. Mainers don’t need any more big-government attacks on our freedom.

Jim Fossel

About Jim Fossel

Originally from Alna, Jim Fossel has volunteered with a number of campaigns over the years, including for Peter Mills for Governor in 2006. He previously worked for U.S. Senator Susan Collins and House Republican Leader Josh Tardy.