Guns-To-Work Laws Proliferate, Despite Mass Shootings And Employer Opposition

worker stress Empire State Building shooting
worker stress Empire State Building shooting

As the country reels over the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there has been much soul-searching over the upswing in mass murders on American soil -- and how to stop the deadly trend. In recent months, employers have quietly joined in the debate, fighting National Rifle Association-supported bills that would make it legal for employees to bring guns to work, reports Bloomberg News.

According to Bloomberg News, state legislatures in Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and Pennsylvania are considering bills that would permit workers to keep their guns in their cars in employee parking lots. The law's backers, which include the NRA, argue that employees need to be able to keep guns in their cars to protect them during their commutes to and from work. "I think it's necessary so people will have peace of mind when they're traveling to and from work," Alabama state Senator Roger Bedford told the Associated Press before the Sandy school shootings.

UPDATED December 19, 2012, 1:00 pm: President Obama declared his intent on Wednesday to submit gun control proposals to Congress in January. But the Sandy school massacre hasn't necessarily changed the political climate in some state legislatures. In fact, one state lawmaker from Tennessee has already announced that he intends to push for a bill that would allow teachers in classrooms to carry guns, according to Nashville's WKRN-TV. The Knoxville Republican said, "Gun free zones are just target-rich environments."

Employers, like FedEx, Volkswagen and some state Chambers of Commerce, oppose the guns-in-the-trunk bills. "We believe a property owner's right to provide a safe work environment trumps an individual's right to possess a firearm on the owner's property," a FedEx spokesperson told Bloomberg.

But such arguments have not always been compelling to state lawmakers. Seventeen states have passed similar workplace firearms measures since 2003, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (via Bloomberg). When Tennessee legislator, Debra Maggart, a Republican and NRA supporter, dared to oppose a guns-to-work bill because it included day care centers and colleges, the NRA spent "tens of thousands" on attack ads and she lost re-election, notes The Wall Street Journal. "They singled me out to bully our caucus into voting for a poorly written piece of legislation," she says.

Some of the recent guns-to-work laws passed are quite tough on employers that impede employees' ability to come to work with a gun, The Washington Post notes. Indiana allows job applicants and employees to sue employers for damages if asked about gun ownership. North Dakota's 2011 law allows workers to sue employers for damages if they ask if they have a gun in a car parked on the premises. Georgia's law prohibits employers from making employment conditional on not bringing guns to work.

Workplace violence is responsible for one out of 5 on-the-job deaths, according to national statistics. Sometimes, though, murders have been committed by disgruntled ex-employees. In September, five employees at a Minneapolis signage company were killed in the office by an ex-employee brandishing a gun. A month earlier, a former fashion designer killed a former colleague on his way to work at the Empire State building in New York (aftermath pictured above).

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Originally published