After a series of widely publicized school and workplace shootings in the 1990s, many American companies adopted policies prohibiting employees from bringing guns onto employer property. This trend accelerated after the 9/11 attacks. Despite the fact that conservatives typically profess great respect for property rights, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has launched a legal and legislative campaign to reverse these policies and force employers to accept guns in the workplace.
The initiative to roll back employer-imposed restrictions on firearms has its roots in a Utah case involving workers at an America Online call center who were fired in 2000 for bringing their guns into a company parking lot. Recognizing the importance of AOL's right to control its own property, groups including the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce, Utah Restaurants Association and Utah Manufacturers Association supported AOL in friend-of-the-court-briefs. The Utah Supreme Court ultimately upheld AOL's actions and rejected the idea that, "in the face of a freely entered-into agreement to the contrary, an employee has the right to carry a firearm on his employer's premises."
Two years later in Oklahoma, the Weyerhaeuser Company fired a group of employees when guns were discovered in their cars during a drug search. The NRA sprang into action, and at their urging, the Oklahoma state legislature passed a law that bars employers from taking disciplinary action against workers who bring guns to work and keep them locked in their automobiles. A group of companies, with ConocoPhillips at the lead, filed a lawsuit to block enforcement of the law. In 2007, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma sided with them, instituting a permanent restraining order barring the law's enforcement.
The NRA wasn't done, however. In 2008, it got the Florida legislature to enact a Guns in the Workplace law despite the express opposition of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Retail Federation and Walt Disney World Corporation. The former two parties immediately challenged the law in federal court, and at a hearing for a preliminary injunction, one judge went as far as to call the NRA's statute "stupid." The fight over guns in the workplace appears likely to spread to courtrooms and state legislatures in several more states in the near future.
The NRA's Guns in the Workplace laws imply that one person's right to have a gun trumps another person's right to keep guns off of his or her property. The NRA claims to be defending constitutional rights and individual freedom, but it apparently has no regard for the rights or freedom of anyone who doesn't want to be surrounded by guns at all times and in all places. As the American Bar Association noted, the NRA's statutes are "forced-entry laws" that "violate the traditional rights to exclude others from one's private property, as well as the liberty to decide how, whether and when to do so."
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