LEWISTON — Weapons weren’t allowed inside the Androscoggin Bank Colisee before a law change let Maine residents carry concealed handguns without permits — and weapons still aren’t — but management has decided to be extra clear.

“We hadn’t had any signage, but we do now,” Operations Manager Mike Cain said.

The large sign on a tripod outside the door that reads, in all capital letters, “No bags, backpacks or weapons,” is helping clear up confusion around the new law, which went into effect Thursday.

More people can carry now, but they still can’t carry just anywhere.

“Private property owners, including businesses open to the public — movie theaters, restaurants, stores, arenas, and the like — have the right to prohibit firearms on their premises,” Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said. “They had this right before the new law, and they have that right now.”

The bill sponsored by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, made Maine the fifth state to do away with a required permit to carry a concealed handgun but didn’t change other aspects of Maine law, he said.

“There has been a lot of misinformation,” Brakey said. “The who doesn’t change; everyone who’s prohibited is still prohibited. The where doesn’t change; every place it’s prohibited, it’s still prohibited. The what doesn’t change; every firearm that’s prohibited is still prohibited. The only thing changing is the how, which is someone can put a jacket on where they couldn’t before.” 

Brakey said he talked to business leaders about their concerns during the legislative process.

“The big thing to know is this law doesn’t affect in any way private businesses’ ability to set their own policies, as far as guns on their own premises,” he said.

Similarly, grocery stores and retailers could before — and still can — tell customers to leave their guns at the door.

“Customers have the right to go elsewhere if they don’t like those policies,” Brakey said. “That’s the free market.”

Brakey’s bill also didn’t set out to change an earlier law that allows employees with concealed weapons permits to keep their guns in their locked vehicle trunks at work. On its face, most agree that’s still true: Employees still need that permit to keep their guns in their trunks.

“Inside the store, inside the office, that’s still the employers’ call. It’s the parking lot that’s the issue,” attorney Bill Harwood at Verrill Dana said. “I think there’s a good argument on the employers’ side that a permit is still required, but that’s what gives lawyers work and keeps judges busy — somebody may test that.”

Similarly, gun owners still need the now-optional concealed weapons permit to take their guns into Acadia National Park and state parks.

“I think there will be confusion,” Harwood said. 

Shannon Kashinsky, president-elect of the Human Resources Association of Southern Maine, said companies like her credit union may find themselves having to reword in-house policies after Thursday’s law change.

“We already had a no-carry policy with wording that related to a concealed weapons permit,” she said. “I will definitely be changing the wording to that, either taking that out or adding to it.

“For industries, our other issue that we’re coming into is (setting rules for customers),” Kashinsky said. How should businesses react when they notice someone carrying, see it’s making employees or other customers uncomfortable and haven’t already addressed it with signs?

“What are we supposed to do or say?” Kashinsky said. “Let them conduct their business? Ask them to leave? It has a lot of different implications. I think time will tell (whether this) will have any impact at all, is it going to come up. When it does, that’s when we’ll all have to decide: What are we going to do about it?”

Cain ordered the sign for the Colisee a few weeks ago and he’s been setting it in front of the door during events. 

“We have many events where we already turn people away with their concealed carry,” he said. “Any concert, at least a half a dozen of them are going back to their car to put their weapons in their car. I’m Canadian; I don’t understand the law at all. It’s a whole different world for me. The only people who should carry weapons in our building should be the police officers.”

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