Posted on Fri, Apr. 06, 2007
Leave guns, assault weapons at home
OUR OPINION: GUN BILL HAZARDOUS TO WORKERS, BUSINESSES, CUSTOMERS
What should a business owner do when an employee shows up threatening to shoot co-workers with a loaded AK-47 assault rifle stashed in his car? Amazingly, the Florida Legislature is considering a bill that would render an employer powerless to defend workers by banning guns from the workplace. That is just plain wrong. Lawmakers mustn't let this dangerous, nonsensical bill become law.
This real-life incident occurred several weeks ago at the BrandsMart USA warehouse in South Florida, as Larry Levine, the company's operations vice president, described it. Like many businesses, BrandsMart bans guns from its property. The man was fired and escorted off the grounds. Had the proposed gun bill been in effect, it would have been illegal for BrandsMart to act responsibly to protect its employees.
This is an invitation to tragedy, one that the Legislature must avoid by rejecting the bill (SB 2356/HB 1417). The proposal would allow gun owners to take weapons to work in their cars. Doing so, the bill would trample the right of businesses to protect their workplaces, employees and customers.
The bill would make it illegal for a business to prohibit employees or visitors from keeping ''legal personal property'' in their car at work. Thus, business owners could be prosecuted for searching cars on company property or making a weapons ban a condition of employment. Businesses wouldn't be allowed to fire an employee or banish visitors for having weapons in their car. This language is so broad that an employer would be barred from questioning a day-care worker about suspect pornography in his car.
The bill does recognize the potential for violence. Its solution is to immunize businesses from the consequences when a gun owner shoots up their premises. In other words, the law protects businesses from financial consequences after damage has been done and lives have been lost.
National Rifle Association lobbyists say that a licensed gun owner's right to bear arms should extend to the cars. But that right is not absolute: It is limited by a company's right to set employment rules and dictate what happens on its private property.
Many companies impose drug tests, dress codes, ethics rules and smoking and weapons bans. People who object don't have to work for those employers. The Legislature would overreach by dictating how a company conducts business on its own premises. Outlawing policies that protect the workplace is bad business and bad for Florida. The bill unfortunately sailed through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee last week in a 7-1 vote. We urge the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, to stop this bill now.