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Weapons at the Workplace: New Law has Maine Employers Concerned
07/26/2012   Reported By: Tom Porter

Last week's tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, has led to reports of increased gun sales across the country and a rise in the number of people applying for concealed weapons permits. Here in Maine, the waiting list for concealed weapons permits has been growing for some time, and according to the state of Maine Web site, the State Police processes about 6,000 permits a year. Applicants are told they can expect to wait up to 90 days for a permit. Over the last few months, Maine has also joined a growing number of states where workers have the right to take concealed weapons to the workplace--as long as they leave them in the car. Many employers are unhappy about this. MPBN Maine Things Considered host Tom Porter talks with Meg LePage, an attorney at Pierce Atwood in Portland, who specializes in this area of the law.

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Weapons at the Workplace: New Law has Maine Emplo
Originally Aired: 7/26/2012 5:30 PM
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 Duration:
4:59

Meg LePage

Tom Porter: Remind us what Maine's fairly new gun law is on firearms in the workplace, regarding private companies and,  indeed, state employees,

Meg LePage: Right there are two different statutes that were passed, and basically the statutes forbid employers from prohibiting employees from bringing guns to work, as long as they remain in the employee's vehicle and the vehicle's locked, and as long as the employee has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Tom Porter: If anything happens and the gun in that car is used in a crime that leads to an injury or a death, is the employer immune from prosecution?

Meg LePage: The statute does provide some immunity if there is an event involving a gun that was brought in compliance with the statute. That immunity, though, wouldn't apply--arguably at least--if somebody who bought the gun did not have a permit, or left it in a vehicle that wasn't locked, or that was visible. It also wouldn't exempt the employer from workers' compensation.

Tom Porter: So there's no real mechanism to enforce this law, and if the employee does not follow it, does not conceal a weapon or have a permit or lock it in the car, it could be the employer who finds himself liable.

Meg LePage: It could. That's right.

Tom Porter: So that's presumably a concern to employers?

Meg LePage: Yes, and that puts in the employer in the position of trying to decide whether they're going to require employees to register their guns, if they're going to carry one in their vehicle, and show proof that they have a concealed weapons permit, because if they don't do that, and there is an incident, they may not be able to take advantage of the immunity.

Tom Porter: So what reforms are needed in the view of employers and what efforts are underway?

Meg LePage: Well, a lot of employers would like to see the statute repealed, and allow the employer to make a decision whether it's in that employer's best interests to control firearms on their worksite. Other employers are taking steps to try to minimize the risk by requiring employees who bring guns to register them with the employer so they have some idea of where the guns are and if they're being properly stored.

Tom Porter: Do they have the right to do that?

Meg LePage: The statute doesn't say anything about whether they do or not, so presumably they do. But the experience of employers in Indiana, for example, who tried to take those kinds of precautions, was that the legislation then got amended the next year prohibiting employers from asking employees questions about guns that they had and whether they were bringing them in their vehicles.

Tom Porter: Many gun owners presumably don't like to be obliged to provide that information, that's their business. That's their argument?

Meg LePage: Apparently, yes.

Tom Porter: Meg LePage, many thanks.

Meg LePage: Thank you.

Meg LePage is an attorney with Pierce Atwood in Portland.

So what do gun owners make of the law as it pertains to firearms in the workplace--or in vehicles at the workplace? Jeff Weinstein supports that legislation:  He's president of the Maine Gun Owners Association.

"In so many instances people who own firearms and who want to have them ready in a defensive situation, oftentimes will carry them in their automobile, hence with that situation they have them available especially for travel between work and home, or work and wherever else they may have going, it's available.  If, for instance, a business restricted the use of somebody having a firearm locked up and otherwise secured in a vehicle at work, it means they would have to travel from say home to work without the availability of that firearm, which of course it's their constitutional right to have."

That was Jeff Weinstein of the Maine Gun Owners Association.

Tell us what you think about firearms in the workplace--do you have a concealed weapons permit? Or are you an employer affected by the law? We welcome your feedback on this or any of tonight's stories. Drop us a line via email at mtc@mpbn.net. Or you can call our program comment line at 207-874 6570.


Photo by Tom Porter.

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