A Non-Partisan Resource for Journalists

Bangor, Maine Newspaper Backs off Gun Permit List

The Bangor Daily New withdrew a request for public data about gun permit owners. The paper found itself the focus of an outroar as politicians and others began speculating the paper would publish the names of gun owners.   The paper’s editor wrote:

The Bangor Daily News has rescinded its request for records about concealed weapon permit holders in the state of Maine. We have informed the agencies who received our request to disregard it. We’ve informed the agencies who have responded that their records will be destroyed.

We are disappointed with the reaction to our request, which we felt was with the best intentions to help study issues affecting Maine through an analysis of publicly available data. We will continue our reporting, but will use other sources of information to do so.

The BDN regrets that its request for information may have been taken as a personal attack on concealed carry permit holders, some of whom work at the BDN.

What has been heartening, however, are the dozens of calls and emails from readers about this issue. We’ve had many good conversations about our request, our intentions, and our commitment to privacy and security of the data.

Unfortunately, these conversations have been trumped by rampant misinformation about our request, as well as swift political opportunism. It’s clear that as a state, and as a nation, we still have much to do to generate light in this debate, instead of heat.

What also has become clear are concerns about the concealed weapons permits process. Some callers to the BDN spoke of long delays in the review of applications; the fact these records also are spread across multiple agencies around the state also should be a concern.

We urge lawmakers in Maine, as they debate the privacy of permit data, to also closely scrutinize the process by which these permits are reviewed and whether the permit-holder information is secure.

The BDN never would have published personally identifying information of any permit holder in Maine, as a newspaper in New York had done. To have done so would have been irresponsible to our readers and our communities.

Nevertheless, our reporting will continue on issues facing Mainers. Although we regret causing this controversy, it has not dulled our will to ask difficult questions to keep our governments accountable and help make Maine a better place.

Here is what I think of the idea of news organizations publishing the names and addresses of gun permit holders.

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