Constitutional Law

Told to give up gun after shooting alleged burglar, disabled tenant sues landlord

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A former Maine lobsterman has sued his landlord, after shooting an intruder at his government-subsidized Rockland apartment earlier this year and being told he must give up his gun or face eviction.

Harvey Lembo, 67, uses a wheelchair. He says he got a gun after being burglarized four times by individuals seeking to steal his prescription medication and used the firearm within hours when yet another break-in occurred and the man lunged at him as he was calling 911, according to the Associated Press and the Bangor Daily News.

The alleged intruder, Christopher Wildhaber, 45, is facing burglary and medication-theft charges.

Lembo’s suit was filed Monday in Knox County. It seeks a ruling that the gun ban infringes on both his right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Maine Civil Rights Act, which protects an individual from violations of his constitutional rights, according to another Associated Press article.

A key fact in the case is that Lembo lives in government-subsidized housing.

On the one hand, that provides the requisite government action needed to establish a constitutional violation, says law professor Dmitry Bam of the University of Maine.

But restrictions have previously been upheld in government-subsidized housing that might not have been allowed in the private housing market.

“I believe it will come down to how strong the justification is for banning guns in the building, and balancing those justifications with the plaintiff’s need for a weapon for self-defense reasons,” Bam said.

The company that owns the apartment building and its management company have been named as defendants in the suit. A representative of the management company told the Bangor Daily News that it has not received a copy of the complaint and declined to comment.

However, he said shortly after the shooting in Lembo’s apartment that the management company includes a no-firearms rule in a lease that residents sign and does so for the safety of all tenants.

As a practical matter, Lembo says he must either give up his apartment or his gun, because subsidized apartments for low-income tenants are hard to find.

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