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HELENA — The House Judiciary Committee heard a proposal Wednesday that would require companies to allow their employees to keep guns in their vehicles while at work, one of several gun rights bills the panel considered.

The committee also held hearings Wednesday on proposals to expand concealed carry rights in cities and allow the use of silencers when hunting.

Gun rights laws are often favored by the Legislature, and many gun measures have broad support. The more expansive proposals, however, drew opposition from business and law enforcement organizations.

House Bill 368 would let employees keep guns in their vehicles on a company's property during the workday as long as worker locked their vehicles. Gun advocacy groups support the proposal, saying it addresses a safety issue and that workers have a constitutional right to keep guns in their cars.

"We need to protect our vulnerable women and men who work in Montana, no matter what type of workplace they are at," bill sponsor Rep. Wendy Warburton said.

Petroleum, coal, railroad and other business organizations spoke out against the bill. They cited employers' private property rights and concerns that the measure could threaten workplace safety.

House Bill 271 allows for any person eligible to carry a concealed weapon to do so without applying for a license. This would extend concealed carry rights to cities. Rural areas already allow concealed carry without a permit.

Supporters of the bill said the legislation stops discrimination against the urban population and increases public safety.

Law enforcement associations spoke out against the bill saying it would endanger officers and would effectively do away with the licensing process.

House Bill 174 would allow silencers to be used in the field for hunting. Big game would not be allowed to be hunted with a silencer.

Gun advocacy groups say the bill is a health and safety issue and the use of silencers would protect hunters' hearing. Opposition groups voiced concern about landowner rights and being able to hear someone hunting on their land.

House Bills 174 and 271 were sponsored by Republican Krayton Kerns.

The committee took no immediate action on the bills.

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