Apr 16, 2008

Guns in the Parking Lot

One year after the shootings at Virginia Tech, the argument continues over gun rights, particularly whether gun owners may bring their weapons to work or school. Yesterday, the Governor of Florida signed a law that will prevent employers from prohibiting guns in company parking lots, as long as those guns are locked in the employee's vehicle and the employee has a permit for the weapon. (An article by Jennifer Steinhauer in yesterday's New York Times carried an interesting graphic on similar efforts in other states, along with bills that would allow students and professors to carry guns on college campuses; it also covers laws seeking to limit gun rights.)

Similar "parking lot" bills were introduced in a number of states last year. As reported by SHRM, however, those efforts lost steam after the Virginia Tech shootings. The National Rifle Association said then that they would renew their state legislative efforts in 2008, and apparently they have made good on that promise.

Whatever you think about gun control, a law that requires an employer to allow guns in its parking lot puts companies in a tough spot: legally required to protect employees from violence, yet unable to prohibit guns on their own property. This argument will be tested soon in a case challenging a similar law in Oklahoma. In October of 2007, the district court judge prevented the law from going into effect, finding that it conflicted with OSHA, the federal law that requires employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury. (Here's a summary of the case, by BLR.) The case is currently before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lisa Guerin