Maine Senate rejects gun show background check bill

Posted May 30, 2013, at 1:48 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate voted down a pair of bills aimed at tightening gun possession and sales laws.

One bill would have restored the ability of employers to prohibit firearms in employees’ vehicles on company property. The other would have required all sales conducted at gun shows in Maine to include a criminal background check on the buyer.

The first bill pit the rights of businesses to set firearm policy for their private property against the constitutional rights of gun owners and those specifically trained and permitted to carry concealed firearms.

Offered by Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, the bills were rejected on Senate votes of 15-20 and 16-19, respectively. Gerzofsky is the Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which held hearings on the bills.

Senators who spoke against the legislation said there was little evidence of any problems in Maine regarding the two issues.

Gerzofsky said the first bill wasn’t meant to limit rights but to restore the rights of business owners and employers.

“Nobody’s taking anybody’s rights away,” Gerzofsky said. “We are actually giving them back.”

But Sen. Gary Plummer, R-Windham, saw it differently.

“I believe we would be depriving people of their right to protect themselves on their way to work and on their way home from work,” Plummer said.

Gerzofsky said the gun show background check bill was meant to make an already good system in Maine stronger.

“It seems to me, the people opposed to background checks are the people who can’t pass them,’ Gerzofsky said. “Those are the people we’re trying to weed out of the system by expanding background checks.”

But opponents noted state law already prohibits the private sale of firearms at gun shows in Maine and that only federally licensed firearms dealers, who must conduct background checks on sales, are allowed to sell guns at shows here.

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