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Maine Legislature Considers Pro-Gun Legislation

Would prevent employers from disallowing firearms on their property,

if CCW permit holder locks it in vehicle.




By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, June 1, 2011

AUGUSTA, MaineOn May 12, the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety gave LD 35, An Act Relating to Concealed Firearms Locked in Vehicles, a 7-6 “ought-to-pass” recommendation. The bill heads to the full legislature for action shortly.

If passed into law, this would allow employees with a valid carry (CCW) permit, to bring a handgun to the work site and keep it in their locked vehicle, despite any “no weapons” policy an employer may have in effect at their business. It applies to businesses of any size in Maine. Only a handful of states provide this type of exception.

In response to this bill, the Maine Chamber of Commerce began hyperventilating over the proposed legality of CCW permit holders actually locking their firearms in their own, private cars.

“Employers should have the right to regulate safety in their own workplace and to choose whether or not to allow guns on their property,” wrote Peter Gore, Vice President for Advocacy and Government Relations at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, in a recent E-mail appeal to business owners. “Many employers adopt a ‘no weapons’ policy to eliminate the possibility of workplace violence and maintain a safe work environment for their employees.”

Gore admits it is conceivable that an employee can bring a weapon and leave it in their car even without this new law, however, with a “no weapons” policy in place, employees are strongly deterred from doing so especially if it may result in termination. “Employers are responsible for the safety of their employees while on the job and have a duty to provide a safe work environment for employees while they are at work. This bill interferes with an employer's ability to manage their workplace and their workers. It imposes on their private property rights.”

What Gore fails to acknowledge is the fact that a CCW permit holder has already undergone a mandatory safety course and has been vetted by his/her local police chief (or State Police in unorganized territories) before being granted permission to carry a concealed weapon.

The city of Presque Isle currently has 337 concealed weapons permits issued to local inhabitants. Since May 23, 2010, of 1,826 events logged at Presque Isle Police Department, there was only 1—or 0.1%—involving a firearm in general and 1 involving a handgun specifically. However Chief Matt Irwin said he couldn’t confirm if those two incidents were with CCW holders since they don’t track that specific information. Of those 1,826 events logged by PIPD, there were 4 assaults with a knife, or cutting instrument; 2 with a blunt object; 1 with a motor vehicle and 108 with so-called ‘personal weapons’ such as hands, feet, etc.

The Caribou Police Department currently has 241 active CCW holders. According to CPD Chief Michael Gahagan, none of those CCW holders have been arrested for firearms related crimes in the past year.

The Fort Fairfield Police Department currently lists 132 active CCW holders in town. Chief Joe Bubar says none of those permit holders have been charged with unlawful discharging their weapon, or threatening with it in the past year.

So, it does not follow that increased numbers of CCW permit holders equals more gun crime. Indeed, the trend in Presque Isle, Caribou and Fort Fairfield shows such crime is nearly non-existent. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce does not cite any local statistics, such as above, when appealing to business owners to oppose LD 35 since to do so would damage their credibility and position on the matter.

While business owners are able to regulate action on their property, inside the confines of a locked vehicle are considered a person’s “private property” every bit as much as their home and businesses enjoy no such rights—either real or implied—to regulate to that extent. The concept overall goes to the question of just exactly how much control should any employer have regarding what amounts for the most part to “non-work issues” regarding employees’ lives. The possession of otherwise legally owned property belonging to employees on employers' premises falls into this category. And there is considerable question as to whether the CCW issue is enough of a safety issue to warrant employer intervention.

Most CCW permit holders who choose to arm themselves currently have to go to work and return home unarmed, since current law does not allow them to leave their weapon locked in their vehicle while at work when an employer has stipulated a “no weapons” policy. It is conceivable that some CCW holders do lock their weapons in their vehicles, despite their employer's rules to the contrary but no increased rash of gun violence has been noted in Maine as a result of this practice.

The bill was amended to add language that shields an employer from liability from civil actions in the event an employee is injured or killed by fellow employee or another individual with a gun or weapon while on that business’ property.







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