AUGUSTA — The Maine House took initial votes Tuesday on a series of proposals to expand where concealed weapons could be carried in Maine.

One measure, L.D. 932, which would have allowed concealed-weapons permit holders to carry guns in the State House, was killed at the request of its sponsor, Rep. Dale Crafts, R-Lisbon.

Crafts had said previously that if security was stepped up at the Capitol complex he would withdraw his bill. Late last month, House Speaker Robert Nutting said that about $546,000 would be added to the Capitol Police budget to fund full-time screening for weapons at the entrance to the State House.

Another proposal, L.D. 1347, sponsored by Rep. Rich Cebra, R-Naples, initially would have allowed concealed-weapons permit holders to carry guns in bars, to labor disputes, at the State House and at state parks and historic sites.

An amended version of the bill, which would allow permit holders to carry guns only at state parks and historic sites, was endorsed by a House vote of 88-59.

A bill that would allow any worker with a concealed-weapons permit to leave a gun, out of sight, in a locked car at work also faced votes on Tuesday.

In a bit of procedural gamesmanship, the House did not endorse passage or defeat of the proposal, L.D. 35, also sponsored by Cebra. According to the roll call votes, nine Republicans voted against passage and also voted against defeat of the bill.

Business groups, such as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Merchants Association, strongly oppose the bill, which they say would increase insurance costs, threaten their ability to ensure workplace safety and expose them to potential lawsuits.

“Currently, employers are allowed to have the policy regarding their own property; they are not required to have it, but they are allowed. If this bill passes, we are taking that right away from these employers,” said Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland.

Supporters of the bill say concealed-weapons permit holders are vetted by the state and would pose no safety threat.

“How this would disrupt or hinder a business simply is not obvious or explained,” Cebra said during floor debate.

All of the proposals face further votes in the House and Senate.

The gun debate follows the arrest last month of Rep. Fred Wintle, R-Garland, who allegedly pulled a .22-caliber gun on a man in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot in Waterville.

Wintle, who has been banned from the State House and undergone a psychiatric evaluation, was charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]