Dozens of school leaders spoke out Wednesday against proposed legislation that would allow people picking up or dropping off students at schools to have an unloaded gun in their car if the weapon was locked and the owner didn’t leave the vehicle.

A similar bill was rejected last year.

“Both (bills) completely miss the point of our opposition. We believe that to protect students from unintended or intended harm there has to be a bright line. No guns on school property. Period,” said Steven Bailey, executive director of the Maine School Management Association.

L.D. 1761 sponsor Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake said it was “very common” for residents in his rural district to have a gun in their car, particularly hunters. Since they’re not allowed to bring guns on school grounds under Maine law, they have to park across the street from school, he said.

“From my point of view, (that) seemed kind of ridiculous,” Martin told the members of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. Only Martin and co-sponsor Rep. Patrick Corey, D-Windham, spoke in favor of the bill. More than a dozen spoke against it, including representatives of the Maine Principals’ Association, the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine School Superintendents Association.

South Portland Superintendent Ken Kunin said he discussed the bill with the city’s police chief.

“We both agree that the most troubling aspect of this law is that it prioritizes convenience over safety,” Kunin said. “We both agree we must maintain the very bright line that prohibits weapons on school property, not create unnecessary exceptions.”

Several school officials said they already put schools into lockdown if a firearm is spotted on campus. That would continue if the bill passes because school officials would still have no way of knowing whether the gun was unloaded, locked or what the driver’s intent might be. Others questioned whether it was reasonable to assume a parent would never leave the car.

According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, only New Hampshire has a state law allowing guns on K-12 campuses, while Hawaii and Wyoming don’t have laws expressly banning guns on campus. Five other states (Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah) allow concealed carry permit holders to carry guns on K-12 campuses.

In Maine, guns are currently banned on K-12 campuses except for law enforcement personnel with narrow exceptions: an unloaded firearm can be inside a locked vehicle, inside a locked rack or case, while the person attends a school board-approved hunter’s breakfast or similar event during hunting season; and an unloaded firearm may be on campus if used in a school-board approved educational program.

The committee will discuss the bill and vote on it in a future work session.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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