Gun Showdown at Work

by JOE PALAZZOLO, The Wall Street Journal  |  published on December 2, 2012


Gun legislation in some Southern states is forcing Republican lawmakers to choose between two core values of their party: the right of business owners to control what happens on their property and people’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Their dilemma is the result of bills pushed by the National Rifle Association that would let employees bring firearms—ranging from handguns, rifles and shotguns—to work and store them in their vehicles, even against an employer’s wishes.

About 20 states have passed so-called parking-lot bills since 2004, including an expansion this year of a gun-rights law in Maine. But a split has started to materialize in GOP-controlled legislatures in some of the country’s most gun-friendly states. Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee have refused to support such laws, proving receptive to a push by business groups in those states that have argued that the rules trample on their property rights.

Businesses in other states have sought to oppose parking-lot bills by emphasizing the liability dangers that such legislation could create, but those efforts have been less successful.

“We are opposed to guns people saying what we can do on our property,” said Wayne K. Scharber, interim president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Executives at several large companies such as FedEx Corp. FDX -1.40% and Volkswagen VOW3.XE +0.39% also testified against the legislation in that state earlier this year, saying it would hamper efforts to ensure workplace safety.

The number of victims of workplace homicides aged 16 or older decreased by 57% from 1993 to 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Of 458 homicides in 2011, 358 were by shooting.

The NRA argues, however, that many employees, particularly those who work far from home, are vulnerable to violent crime on their way to and from work. If their employers ban guns, they spend the majority of their time unarmed.

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