Legislation passed by Maine lawmakers that permits state employees to bring concealed weapons to work has raised concern among state gun-control advocates, while backers of the bill say it merely puts the state's workers on parity with those privately employed.
The Maine House of Representatives passed the bill handily Monday -- 84-55. It would allow a state worker to bring a gun to work, provided that the worker has a permit to carry a concealed weapon and keeps the firearm in his or her car, the Bangor Daily News reports.
"All it does is reaffirm rights under the Second Amendment. This actually restricts it a little bit by saying you need a permit and saying you need to lock your car," Rep. David Burns, a Republican, told the newspaper. "I don't give up constitutional rights just because I become a state employee."
The bill was modeled after similar legislation last year that passed by a much narrower margin -- 73-71 -- that gave private-sector employees the same right.
The state workers' right-to-carry bill now moves to the Republican-held state Senate.
Opponents argue that the legislation is unnecessary and could lead to unexpected consequences.
Rep. Anne Haskell, a Democrat from Portland, told the Daily News that the law doesn't take into consideration "a number of places where perhaps it might not be appropriate to leave a firearm," including prisons.
At a public hearing in January, Bill Harwood, of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, said there was no compelling reason for state employees to have guns at their workplaces or in their cars.
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the state's chief business lobbying group, also opposed the bill (see related video below).
The passage of last year's bill granting private employees the right to carry concealed weapons has resulted in many employers feeling less safe, knowing that cars in their parking lots may contain guns, said Peter Gore, the chamber's vice president of government relations.
In related news, Missouri's House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation Monday that would make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against workers with a permit to carry a concealed weapon, according to Missouri News Horizon.
But the bill, which now heads to the state Senate, wouldn't require employers to allow gun owners to bring firearms to work.
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