The Right To Bear Arms…In Office Parking Lots

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Picture of a Glock 19 Gen 4 (4th Generation). Keeping violence out of the workplace is a top priority for employers everywhere. But as more states pass laws giving employees the right to bring guns onto company parking lots, many facility managers now feel caught in the proverbial crossfire, writes James P. Anelli, a Newark, NJ-based attorney in LeClairRyan‘s Labor and Employment Group in a new article.

Anelli feels there is a growing and legally controversial trend among state legislatures to pass laws that actually prevent employers from keeping guns out of workplace parking lots. Indeed, he notes, states that have passed such legislation now include Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, Kansas, and Minnesota, and similar laws are under consideration in the statehouses of Alabama, Louisiana, Montana, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.

The aim of these laws, typically introduced by pro-gun lawmakers and supported by the National Rifle Association, is to enable employees to exercise their constitutional right to possess and carry firearms. But the statutes create a difficult dilemma for company executives who are legally charged with maintaining workplace safety, Anelli notes.

Employers, for example, must follow strict workplace safety guidelines issued by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Yet, legal opinion is divided on whether these new state laws conflict with OSHA’s general safety requirements. In October 2007, for example, a federal judge issued an injunction against the enforcement of Oklahoma’s aforementioned legislation. The ruling agreed with the employer group arguments that the new laws created an obstacle to meeting OSHA’s requirement to maintain a safe workplace.

Given this legal ambiguity, Anelli says, facility professionals in states that have passed such laws might make a critical mistake — concluding that they have been relieved of their obligation to keep the workplace, including its parking lot, safe. “It is important, despite such laws, to work very closely with security professionals, attorneys, and local law enforcement officials in defusing situations involving potential violence and the possible use of firearms,” explains the veteran attorney.

Anelli spells out concrete steps executives can take to protect their companies from liability — and to protect their employees from workplace violence despite the pro-gun laws. Some types of businesses, for example, may have been legally exempt from the applicable laws, which vary widely from state to state, and can therefore continue enforcing parking lot gun bans. Others might be able to carve out “secured parking areas” that are gun-free but still in compliance with their states’ laws. None of the laws, the attorney emphasizes, protects employees from coming into the actual workplace with a gun. Employers are free to keep firearms out of the company building, and they should continue to watch closely for employee behavior suggestive of possible violence.

Concerned employers, should they choose to do so, might work with other businesses to fight this type of legislation. The first step is to monitor the shifting legal landscape for changes that will affect their own workplace safety responsibilities.

“It is inevitable that OSHA will eventually have to act on this issue, either directly or indirectly, when business groups obtain rulings enforcing OSHA’s general safety requirements and enjoining the enforcement of these laws,” Anelli says. “In the final analysis, while some employers’ groups have said that the days of the Wild West are returning, it seems more likely that these issues will soon be ‘played out’ in the courts.”

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9 Responses
  1. Mark Ball says:

    This is ridiculous. People that have been trained and carry legally should be allowed to keep their weapon secured in their vehicle, regardless of whether it is parked on the employer’s property or not. I carry and have to park on the street. Of course, I’m not the only one…I also see a reserve Sheriff’s Deputy and others doing the same. We drive 25-40 miles to get to work and have valid reason and carry legally. The arguments about parking lot gun control are far one side or the other, and sensibility (or reason) has been thrown out. How about looking out for our personal safety rather than being more concerned about a lawsuit or financial penalty by OSHA? Besides that, does the employee’s time start when he arrives at the parking lot or when he gets to his work station?

  2. Frank Donahue says:

    If the parking lot belongs to the employer, they should have the right to exclude guns from cars parked in their lot. There’s no law that employers have to provide parking for employees. If employees want to exercise their gun-totin’ rights, they could park somewhere else.

  3. steve dows says:

    Particularily in response to Mark Ball, in California it is not necessary to have a CCW permit to carry a weapon in a car, if it’s unloaded and being transported, so this isn’t just about just CCW holders, such as you and I.
    Thing that bothers me greatly, especially when an Officer of the Law does it, is the fact that about half the handguns stolen are ones left in cars…first thing I was always taught is keep your weapon in control and reach and never leave in a car!
    I can see both sides of this isue, but keep it in perspective please.

  4. Sam says:

    Keeping violence out of the workplace seems to be a facade, because you are not covered by Workman’s comp. Does the common employee get clocked in when he reaches the parking lot? Are the employees of an organization entitled to Workman’s compensation if they get hurt while occupying their vehicle that is parked/moving in a parking lot, or if they fall in the parking lot on the way to get clocked in? Are not many employees prohibited from going to their vehicles during shift hours? If these things are true, why do they claim that it is the workplace? Aren’t these employees entitled to monetary and insurance compensation at the workplace point of entry?

  5. RyanK says:

    http://www.righttokeepandbeararms.com/phpBB3/index.php

    I invite everyone to come and check out the new super massive 2nd amendment rights movement.

    There is no doubt our gun rights are in jeopardy and they will probably try to force more bans and regulations. We need to unite and educate the people who dont seem to understand that this is a basic right granted to all Americans by our Nations founding documents. Whether you like it or not, there are a few things that aren’t up for a debate or to be made available for a vote. When it comes to the Bill of Rights you need to understand there is no democratic process, as this Nation is a Constitutional Republic.

    Ryan

  6. John says:

    This is an absurd article. There is no demonstrated increase in workplace violence due to citizens lawfully storing firearms in their cars. The author of this hack piece insults the millions of dedicated employees who happen to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights by referring to them as “wild west ” types.

    The next time you feel the need to write an article on this topic, it would be useful to get someone without an axe to grind, and who can write accurately and objectively.

  7. John says:

    In this day and age with layoffs and unemployment at an all time high. People’s state of mind is not always good. Being a facilities manager myself and in charge of security I find this troubling. If an employee gets fired it does not take much for them to go to their car and grab their gun and start going postal. The whole 2nd amendment crap to me is all in the translation. The state gives you the right to bear arms it is not your god given right. That saying if the employer owns the parking lot he or she should have the right to tell you not to have a gun in your car while on their property.

    • John says:

      I agree with John, The 2nd admendment is in translation and states. The state gives you the right to bear arms and is not your god given right. Plus back when this was written they were using muskets for christ sake not Uzi’s and 9MM’s I am sure they would not agree with it now. You NRA idiots go way to damn far living in fear that the government is going to control everything you do. Keep guns out of the office and off company property..

  8. Jeremy Murphy says:

    First let me say to John that people that go postal aren’t Concealed Carry holders. Concealed Carry Holders are the ones that are going to protect you when someone does go postal.

    Second I see a lot of facilities that have signs before you enter “NO WEAPONS ON PROPERTY”. All that sign does is NOT allow the honest people to be armed that you want to have a firearm on them in case a gunman comes in going postal. Basically that sign is not going to stop the person you want it to stop. It just says “Hey, nobody in here is armed at all so bring your weapon in here and none of us can defend ourselves!”

    After all we let Police Officers carry on any facility they want. So are we saying that they are the only honest people and if you are not a Police Officer and you get your hands on a firearm you will go postal? I think that if criminals thought everybody was armed there would be a lot less crime.

    In closing just something to think about. If we (the honest good citizens) were allowed to carry on planes would the terrorists have been able to hijack the planes with several armed people ready and able to stop them? But the weapons laws just made us vulnerable to be taken over with little effort.

    I have tried to keep it short and simple but could go on for a while I just ask for people who make any decisions that have a big impact on regulation and laws to think about reality rather than what you want it to mean.

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