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Letter: Sad Commentary on Lawmaking

To the Editor:

So the Bangor Daily News asked for records about Maine’s concealed-weapons permit holders. Legislators and the governor reacted with dismay and anger, and the newspaper withdrew its request. Sounds reminiscent of the outrage when the Journal News published similar information about New York’s permit holders.

In both cases, those who have expressed dismay and anger ought to take a look in a mirror. Legislators drafted the freedom of information laws in their states. Governors of those states signed the bills into law. Interest groups such as police and sheriffs associations were undoubtedly aware of the bills and their provisions.

Are we to believe that legislators drafting the bills didn’t bother to take the time to think about what they were proposing? Are we to believe that no legislator or legislative staff member raised a question about why the names and addresses of gun owners were not exempt from the provisions of the laws? Are we to believe that no one with an interest in the original freedom of information laws took the time to read what the bills said and asked for amendments? If any of this is accurate, it presents cases of widespread incompetence.

In New York, the Journal News was excoriated and it eventually pulled the published material. The Bangor paper also backed off. However, neither paper did anything illegal. They were asking for information that should have been available under their states’ laws. The papers may have used poor judgment in asking for the information. Maybe they had agendas they wanted to pursue. The “why” of this matter is irrelevant. What is relevant is that apparently faulty state laws served as the newspapers’ enablers.

These incidents ought to serve as a wake-up call to those responsible for enacting laws at every level of government. Give more than cursory thought to what you’re doing before you do the deed.

Alan Tanenbaum