Federal judge upholds guns-at-work law
Sentinel Staff Writer
8:35 AM EDT, July 29, 2008
A federal judge has dealt a major defeat to Florida's business lobby by upholding the main thrust of a new law allowing employees with concealed weapons permits to take their guns to work.
The so called "guns-at-work" law was the product of a three-year constitutional clash that pitted the powerful National Rifle Association against equally influential business groups over two basic constitutional concepts: the right of private property and the right to bear arms.
Lawmakers last spring split the difference and passed a watered-down bill that only allowed employees with concealed-weapons permits to store their weapons in the glove-compartment of their vehicles. But companies like Walt Disney have claimed they are exempt from the law.
Late last month, Disney World Vice President of Public Affairs Shannon McAleavey advised other company executives in a memo that, with a few exceptions, "this law does not apply to Walt Disney World Co. owned and leased properties" because of language in the law that creates an exception for companies whose primary business is to manufacture, use, store or transport explosives regulated under federal law.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said at a public hearing last month that the law was poorly drafted and "stupid," but he announced in his 39-page order late Monday that Floridians with concealed weapons permits had the right to take their guns to work and leave them locked in their vehicles.
However, he ruled the new law was unconstitutional "to the extent it compels some businesses but not others--with no rational basis for the distinction--to allow a customer to secure a gun in a vehicle."
Hinkle granted the Florida Chamber of Commerce's request for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of that part of the law.
Chamber legislative counsel Adam Babington said the ruling potentially "causes more confusion than it solves" because it would seemingly prevent someone who carries a concealed weapon in the car from stopping at any business other than where they work.
"This essentiallly says you can take your gun to work and you can drive on the public streets, but you're not entitled to take your gun anywhere else," Babington said.
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said Tuesday morning they were also still reviewing the order.
Sen. Durell Peaden, a Crestview Republican who helped draft the law, said he mildly surprised by the ruling but expects business groups to appeal the decision.
"This is just the beginning of the process," he said.
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