The Courier-Gazette Editorial

Don't forget the First Amendment in your zeal for the Second

Feb 22, 2013

Last week the Bangor Daily News sparked an outcry from Maine's gun rights advocates when it submitted a Freedom of Access Act request for information on concealed weapons permit holders.

On Feb. 19, a bill temporarily exempting that information from state laws requiring its disclosure passed easily in both chambers of the Legislature. The bill will keep information about concealed weapons permit holders private until April 30.

We agree that a wholesale disclosure of concealed permit holders should not take place and that would not be responsible journalism. The Bangor Daily News has stated that it did not intend to publish the information, and has since withdrawn its request.

This issue raises concerns, however. For the one of the largest newspapers in the state to make a freedom of access request on this scale and then cave into pressure it should have anticipated almost immediately sends the message that newspapers will back off of research and stories in the face of threatened boycotts and pressure from politicians.

How can we behave that way and serve in our role as watchdogs, here to hold the government accountable to the "we the people" so often mentioned in political discourse?

We would not have made that particular public request, but if the Bangor Daily News had a good journalistic reason for requesting the information that was public information at the time, it should have stuck to its guns, so to speak.

This legislative action is troubling as well. Does this set a precedent? Will the Legislature quickly move to block access to any public documents it does not want the press to publish?

As one respected colleague said on Facebook, "I think the First Amendment is just as important as the Second."

When the Bangor Daily News caves under this kind of pressure, it affects all of us in this business.

The anti-press sentiment by the governor and some other politicians has become nothing more than a bullying tactic. Sure, we have all seen abuses in the media. However, does anyone really want to live in a United States where the only information being disseminated either comes from state-run public relations departments and college kids and blowhards writing half truths on Twitter? Let's get real before we go after the seasoned professionals who put their names on what they write in print and allow themselves to be held accountable for their work.

Finally, how do you balance a law-abiding gun owner's right to privacy with the public's right to be informed about weapons in its midst? Should a woman be able to request information about weapons permits held by an abusive ex-husband? Should a retired police officer with a concealed weapon permit have his or her name kept confidential?

This is a difficult issue and one requiring plenty of time and debate.

While we agree that permit holders should have some right to privacy, we also hope the Legislature will keep open — in some way — the right of concerned citizens to find out who in their community might be carrying a concealed weapon.

 

Town meeting time is almost here!

March is just around the corner and that means many local municipalities will begin holding annual town meetings, at which residents will weigh in on a number of issues affecting how their local government functions.

What services are essential and where cuts can be made will be hotly debated, as officials look for ways to alleviate the burden of higher property taxes.

Of particular concern is the continued trend of the state government reducing the amount of money given to towns and schools, which results in residents paying increasingly higher amounts in property taxes, as local officials look for ways to plug holes in town budgets.

The reduction in state revenue, and in turn, the reduction in funding allocated to municipalities, will mean services must continue to be cut or taxes will rise.

As the dates for town meetings draw nearer, it is essential to familiarize yourself with your town’s budget to better understand how your tax dollars are being spent. Here in these pages, you will find articles about town budgets and who is running for local office.

It is also important to realize that a significant portion of your taxes are controlled by your school district, and by county commissioners. While we know every official and all those who vote at their town meeting will do their best to limit the strain on taxpayers, it is time to start preparing for a likely increase in property taxes.

 

Comments (11)
Posted by: Catherine Cooper | Feb 25, 2013 09:33

When the goal is to expose gun owners to try to embarrass or harass them, it is a miscarriage of justice. I am a believer in the entire Constitution including the 2nd amendment. I don't believe you can pick and choose the amendments you believe or do not believe in to suit your idea of fairness or to fit your lifestyle.



Posted by: Ron Huber | Feb 25, 2013 00:31

Finally  someone figured it out:

Federal Appeals court rules 2nd Amendment does NOT protect right to carry concealed  firearm!

"The Second Amendment's guarantee of a right to bear arms does not extend to the right to carry a concealed weapon in public, a federal appeals court in Denver has ruled.

"We conclude that the carrying of concealed firearms is not protected by the Second Amendment . . ." Justice Carlos Lucero wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lucero cited case law dating to the 1800s that put restrictions on walking around in public with a gun.

"In light of our nation's extensive practice of restricting citizens' freedom to carry firearms in a concealed manner, we hold that this activity does not fall within the scope of the Second Amendment's protections," he wrote in the ruling issued Friday.

Source http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_22648641/federal-court-no-second-amendment-guarantee-concealed-carry



Posted by: Ron Huber | Feb 24, 2013 22:03

Explain again why licensed concealed weapons owners are okay with  their deadliness being known to local & state law enforcement, the FBI and  and federal homeland security agencies, but not your neighbors?  "Privacy" claims make it sound like a concealed carry permit is a sort of  disability that you'd rather folks don't know about.



Posted by: William Pease | Feb 23, 2013 17:43

I'm in the same hole, Richie. Thanks for your thoughtful discourse. I'm going to bow out too and let others speak.



Posted by: richie osgood | Feb 23, 2013 17:07

I find myself in a hole where I do not wish to be. These blogs are hard to express ideas without offending someone, which offense was not intended. I will bow out and let others say what they wish.



Posted by: William Pease | Feb 23, 2013 16:14

I'm glad to read your reply, Richie, that you would never "take a gun to a party, and would not pack heat at a friends house." I suspect, though, that not all gun lovers would agree with you. That is certainly their right not to. However, I do take umbrage to your assumption that I am anti-gun. Indeed, I am not. I have been in love with guns all my life, well, at least ever since I was a kid. I used to keep scrapbooks full of their pictures (wish I still had those scrapbooks), but those scrapbooks disappeared when I was in the army carrying a gun. And I have not taught my kids to be anti-gun. They are old enough to make their own choices. Further, I have not said that people with guns were bad, which you erroneously assumed also. My point is that I agree with the editors of the Courier-Gazette and the Bangor Daily News (before they caved in to pressure) that  "While we agree that permit holders should have some right to privacy, we also hope the Legislature will keep open — in some way — the right of concerned citizens to find out who in their community might be carrying a concealed weapon." I, for instance, want to know if any of my neighbors have a permit to carry a concealed gun, for the safety of my home and anyone in or near it.  The permission to carry a concealed gun is a public record, publicly granted & registered, just like your deed and your car is registered. I think the two newspapers should be supported in their quest to learn the names of owners of concealed weapons permits and I urge that the pubic who reads this will support them also. Your permit to carry a concealed gun doesn't automatically preclude the editors or my or others' right to information about who is granted the permits.



Posted by: richie osgood | Feb 23, 2013 13:40

No. I would not ever take a gun to a party, and would not pack heat at a friends house. My point was privacy, not your rights at your house. Your house is your castle and if you choose to be without a gun and you choose to teach your kids to be anti gun then thats your choice and I do not have any issues with that. There is nothing wrong with anyone who does not like firearms. But on the other hand there are many people with guns, and that does not make them bad either.



Posted by: William Pease | Feb 23, 2013 11:33

Ah, so  you think that your concealed gun permit gives you the right to attend my son's birthday party in my home packing your gun?



Posted by: richie osgood | Feb 23, 2013 11:20

We agree to disagree. :)



Posted by: William Pease | Feb 23, 2013 11:14

Richie, your logic is a little flawed. The permit to carry a concealed weapon, granted by a public office, nowhere states that the information that a person has that permit is not public information. And it being public information in no way prohibits you from carrying around, say, your .45 caliber semiautomatic weapon. You still have that permit.

However, I have a right to know if my neighbor has such a concealed gun permit because I would not want him attending my son's birthday party packing a weapon. Or even entering my house. Or walking on my property. That's my right to know and it in no way takes away your right to have a permit to carry a concealed gun.



Posted by: richie osgood | Feb 22, 2013 23:26

Quote

While we agree that permit holders should have some right to privacy, we also hope the Legislature will keep open — in some way — the right of concerned citizens to find out who in their community might be carrying a concealed weapon.

 

end quote.

 

You can't have privacy if the information is made public. That above statement makes no sense. It is not really anybody's business if someone has a concealed weapons permit. I think the goal for most people that have a permit is that no one ever knows they have one. 99.9 percent of all people with guns NEVER want to have to use one.



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