A map published by New York's Journal News pinpointing the homes of residents with gun permits. Maine's Bangor Daily News has dropped a request for similar data on permit holders in the state. (Image source: lohud.com)
A Maine newspaper has dropped its request to get the names of every concealed weapons permit holder in the state after backlash from Republican lawmakers and the public.
The Bangor Daily News said in an editor's note on its website Friday morning that it had informed state agencies it was rescinding its request for the information after it drew comparisons to a New York newspaper that published a map pinpointing the homes of gun permit holders in December.
"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," the newspaper said. "We will continue our reporting, but will use other sources of information to do so."
Milo Police Chief Damien Pickel trumpeted the newspaper's decision to back down, calling it "a great day." Pickel had taken to the police department's Facebook page on Thursday to warn residents that he had been asked to turn over the names of permit holders. While he was opposed to releasing the information, he said he was bound by law to do so and urged residents to contact their local representatives.
"We're a small town, the town of Milo has less than 2,500 people who live in it. The police department is three full-time officers," Pickel told TheBlaze. "That was my intent with all of this, just to let the people of my town know this was maybe going to happen."
Pickel's original post Thursday morning was shared more than 700 times and received more than 300 comments. He said the response was mixed, with residents thanking him for drawing attention to the newspaper's request and others wondering why he wasn't doing more to stop it.
"There's been folks that have really appreciated what I've done by posting it and then there are those that actually thought that I lacked the courage to stand up and fight it," Pickel said. "Actually by me posting it was my way of fighting it. Because me as the chief, I have to follow the law, the law states that you have to give them the opportunity to review the files."
Pickel, who was a New York police officer and detective for 20 years before becoming Milo's police chief in 2011, said he was particularly concerned that publicizing permit information could identify domestic violence survivors who carry concealed weapons for their own protection.
"You're putting them right back out there on the forefront, you're putting a target on those people," he said. "Part of my job as the chief or just as a police officer is to protect the public, and I believe that this information serves no news value whatsoever. It's not newsworthy. If anything it's creating news, it's really endangering lives."
In an editor's note Thursday afternoon, and then reiterated in its announcement Friday, the Bangor Daily News said it never had any intention of publishing personally identifiable information of any permit holders.
Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage also praised the newspaper's decision to stand down on Friday. He had previously tweeted a photo of himself holding his own concealed-carry permit with the caption: "If newspapers want to know who has concealed weapons permits, they should know I do."
"Good decision by BDN. Mainers' safety is a priority," LePage tweeted Friday.