Senate, House OK concealed guns on workplace grounds

Posted June 09, 2011, at 2:45 p.m.
Last modified June 10, 2011, at 9:57 a.m.

The Maine Senate on Thursday voted in support of a bill that would make it illegal for employers to ban concealed weapons permit holders from keeping guns hidden in locked vehicles in their workplace parking lots.

The 19-15 vote ended a morning debate over LD 35 that pitted the rights of private property owners against the rights of people to carry guns.

“If I want to carry a gun, I will,” said Sen. David Trahan, a Waldoboro Republican and concealed weapons permit holder who argued that guns are already present at or around many places of employment. “This will not change anything that’s currently going on.”

Supporters also said allowing the guns to be locked away in a car in an employer’s parking lot would not diminish workplace safety. It’s the person, not the gun, that commits a violent act, they explained.

But opponents said that telling employers what they can and can’t allow on their property was not in keeping with the state’s new business-friendly focus.

“We do not trump property rights and business owners’ rights for the individual’s right to do whatever they want under the constitution,” said Sen. Elizabeth Schneider, D-Orono.

Schneider and other opponents argued that allowing employees to lock concealed weapons in their cars despite the wishes of their employers was akin to forcing employers to allow protests on their property. To do otherwise, opponents suggested, would deny employees their First Amendment right to free speech just as forbidding guns at the workplace would deny a person’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The same bill passed Wednesday in the House, but only after its members reconsidered the bill the day after defeating it.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill.

The bill only addressed concealed weapons and would not have affected employers’ rights to ban from their property unloaded guns, such as hunting rifles or shotguns hung on window racks.

The bill faces further votes in the House and Senate.

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