Governor Paul LePage
Maine's pro-gun governor tramples on the public's right to know
Editors at the Bangor Daily News must have known their request for public documents about concealed-gun permits last February would be controversial. After all, The Journal News of White Plains, NY, had already set off a firestorm by publishing an interactive map of gun owners on its website.
But the reaction to the BDN was so intense that it called into question the very nature of "public" records. State legislators, especially Republicans, denounced the newspaper. A "Boycott Bangor Daily News Dont [sic] Tread on Us" page popped up on Facebook.
And our Muzzle winner, Governor Paul LePage, demagogued the issue, posing for a photo in which he's seen holding up his own concealed-gun permit. He also called on the state legislature to the remove the data from the public realm as quickly as possible. (The legislation was passed and signed in April, according to the New England First Amendment Coalition.)
"If newspapers would like to know who has concealed weapons permits, then they should know the governor has his," LePage was quoted as saying. "I have serious concerns that BDN's request will incite fear among gun owners and nongun owners alike regarding their safety."
It was all too much for the newspaper, which ended up withdrawing its request — even though, in an "Editor's Note," the paper said it "never would have published personally identifying information of any permit holder."
This is LePage's third Muzzle, with his previous awards coming in 2011 and 2012. His earlier antics leaned toward the buffoonish. This time, he acted as a thug, leading an unruly mob to trample on the public's right to know.