The vote that was held today in the affirmative, 129 to 11, was to protect concealed handgun permit information on a temporary basis or LD 576. That temporary basis is only for 60 days. This is 60 days where, through the legislative committee process, we can properly vet Rep. Wilson’s bill to enact the same concept on a permanent basis. Let me try and explain my vote in support of the moratorium and a few concerns I’ve had.
Number one: Do I think we should rush bills through without public hearings, committee vetting, and proper debate from constituents of our district? No.
While I did receive countless emails, Facebook messages, and even some phone calls, a few days over a holiday weekend doesn’t give the public enough time, and for that matter legislators enough time, to debate a contentious issue. Picking and choosing when to listen to the legislative rules to forgo committee process and public hearing to send out a piece of legislation quickly is also a dangerous route for government to take. Imagine though working this fast on emergency legislation to help fix our failing economy?
Number two: Do I think we should ignore sunshine laws and keep important records and government documents from public consumption? No.
Public access to government documents and files is a must in our democratic society. It is not a suggestion, but a right. As a former journalist I couldn’t be more supportive of this concept having been on the other side of the coin requesting information for news pieces. Government should and will be held accountable. A list of names, addresses, and dates of birth of individual citizens doesn’t really help advance the cause of government transparency. There are many more things I want to ensure we have access to, like how our tax dollars are being spent, etc.
Number three: Do I think we have to bow down to the interests of the gun lobby including the NRA? No.
To be honest I care more about knowing someone went through a proper legal process, background check, and safety course in order to obtain a firearm. That is going to do a lot more than knowing a list of names who carry. Let’s focus on the real issue at hand and not a politicized barely-scratching-the-surface topic. We have a large enough debate regarding guns and gun safety that needs our undivided attention especially after Newtown. Let us use the 60 days to incorporate this into a much larger and broader discussion regarding guns and safety. While there are going to be disagreements, there are a few things we can agree on such as ensuring people have to go through background checks and a safety course in order to own and operate a firearm.
Law enforcement and criminal justice authorities will still have access to this information over the next 60 days. If the legislature doesn’t act on the permanent bill, LD 345, by April 30th then this law will sunset and the Freedom of Access Act requests that were filed during this 60 day period for that information will be honored. In the meantime, if you have an opinion either way on this issue please contact your local state representative and state senator. While I did vote to support this temporary moratorium, I am more than willing to listen to your perspective prior to the next vote on this issue.
Read original bill below:
Read passed changes:
Rep. Justin Chenette
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