State Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, was speaking before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday when she asked two colleagues to join her in the front of the meeting room.
The hefty representatives, Bill Harris, R- Mosby, and Bob Wagner, R-Harrison, stood behind the diminutive Warburton.
What if she were attacked
Warburton asked committee members to imagine what would happen if two men this size attacked her in a dark parking lot as she was leaving work.
Warburtion laughed and assured the audience that the two lawmakers were gentlemen and would never attack her. But she was making a point.
A gun or an equalizer
Her best chance of fighting off attackers, she said, was "a gun, or as I call it, an equalizer."
Warburtion was touting legislation she introduced that would require business owners to let their employees keep guns in their locked cars in their employer's parking lot. Several states already have such measures, she said.
Supporters and opponents of the measure packed a Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.
By approving the legislation, Warburton said, "I will be able to defend my very life."
Concerned about her sister at BNSF
Warburton said her little sister, Julie, works as a conductor at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway in Havre, and she is not allowed to have a gun in her parked car.
Many hospitals have similar rules, even though a man visiting his wife, a nurse, shot an armed man at a Glasgow hospital not long ago, saving many lives, she said.
Yourt life or your livelihood
Rules against keeping guns in cars "put women in the position of having to chose between your life and your livelihood. Not a good choice to have to make."
She praised law enforcement, but said "when seconds count, police are often minutes away."
If employers can prohibit guns, she said, why can't they insist that Bibles be banned in parked cars.
"If they can violate your Second Amendment rights, why not your First Amendment rights?" she asked.
Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said law-abiding people would follow the employer dictates, but criminals would not.
A crazed gunman who wanted to kill people would not stop at the employer's property line and say "Oh, I forgot, I can't bring guns on the property."
Pro-gun folks back plan, business groups not so much
Several pro-gun organizations and individuals lined up to support the Warburton bill, but business groups were united in opposition.
Jon Bennion of the Montana Chamber of Commerce said employers have property rights and ought to be allowed to make the decision on guns.
Liability issues have to be considered, he said.
"Employers don't set up rules based on whether they are pro-gun or anti-gun," he said.
A petroleum industry official said he feared what would happen if a bullet went off near oil facilities.
John Fitzpatrick of NorthWestern Energy said "employers have a responsibility under the law to provide a safe workplace."
Fitzpatrick derided Warburton's comparison between guns and Bibles in parked cars.
"Nobody has ever been killed by a Bible exploding," he said.
Bibles don't explode
"This is bad policy," he said. "It violates our constitutional rights.
Barbara Ranf, spokesman for BNSF, said her company has to comply with federal Department of Homeland Security regulations which bans firearms on company property.
"We have to provide a safe and secure workplace for our employers," she said.
The committee delayed action on Warburton's proposal.