Skip to comments.Maine House gives first nod to loosen gun laws on state grounds
Posted on 03/12/2012 10:41:29 AM PDT by marktwain
AUGUSTA The state House of Representatives on Monday gave first approval to a bill allowing state employees to leave guns locked in their cars as long as they have a concealed weapons permit.
House members voted 84-55 to green-light the bill, LD 1603, with a handful of Democrats voting with the Republican majority.
The measure amends a hotly debated bill that narrowly passed last year enabling private sector workers to keeps guns stowed in their vehicle. This proposal, LD 1603, sponsored by Rep. Dale Crafts, R-Lisbon Falls, broadens the law to include state employees.
Although the current bill focuses on public sector employees, opponents of the private sector law had hoped the Legislature would reconsider its decision last year that effectively prohibited business owners from having policies preventing employees from stowing their guns in their vehicles during work hours.
The law was sharply opposed by business advocates, who argued that allowing employees to bring guns to work usurped employer rules that prohibit the practice. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce has said that employers are universally opposed to the new law.
The debate on Monday centered on the ramifications of expanding the law to include public employees. Proponents of the bill said that it simply extended the same Second Amendment rights that private workers have.
Opponents argued that it was unwise to expand a law that could allow employees to bring guns to work at the state's prisons, agencies and courts.
Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, said the bill would prevent the Department of Corrections from instituting a policy that prohibited employees from leaving their guns in their vehicles. Haskell also cited a memo from the judicial system's legal counsel urging lawmakers not to pass legislation that encouraged employees to bring guns to the workplace.
Proponents, however, said the bill applied to concealed weapons permit holders, who, they said, went through extensive background checks and screenings. They also dismissed arguments that the measure could make a workplace unsafe.
Rep. Kerri Prescott, R-Topsham, said someone who was going to use their gun to do harm would do so regardless of the law.
Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, also disputed claims that allowing employees to leave guns in their vehicles could increase the likelihood that the weapons could be stolen. Harvell said he didn't believe lawmakers should "acquiesce" Second Amendment rights to a thief.
Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, disagreed.
"We're not talking about the right to bear arms," MacDonald said. "We're talking about leaving a weapon in an unsafe place."
Several lawmakers said it was ironic that the state was paying to increase security at the State House a reference to recently installed metal detectors while simultaneously loosening gun laws on state grounds.
Rep. Gary Plummer, R-Windham, said the bill simply reaffirmed people's constitutional right to bear arms. Plummer also rejected the argument that allowing more guns made anyone less safe.
Some lawmakers noted that business owners had been largely opposed to the law passed last year. However, supporters said that law hadn't done anything to make workplaces less safe.
"Nothing wrong has happened and nothing will," said Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea.
Monday's vote means the bill will head to the Senate for consideration.
The Criminal Justice Committee voted 8-5 to support the bill. The minority report would repeal the law passed last year.
Peter Gore, with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, had hoped lawmakers would consider repealing the law. During the public hearing last month Gore said business owners want to control what happens on their property. He said that if an employer wanted to allow concealed weapons, they could. But if they wanted to prohibit them, they should be able to do that, too.
"Employers want to choose what takes place on their private property," he said. "Employers have now lost that choice."
The headline should really say,
“Maine House gives first nod to LIBERALIZE gun laws on state grounds,”
just to p.o. the Libs/Leftists! LOL!
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