Twice since 2010, lawmakers in Tennessee have passed bills having to do with guns in the workplace. But it appears they may not be done yet with this issue.
On July 1, 2013, a new gun law went into effect in Tennessee allowing holders of handgun carry permits to store firearms and ammunition in their vehicles no matter where they’re parked — including while they’re at work.
The law seemed clear: Business owners could no longer ban employees from having guns in their cars with the exception of lots near schools, public parks or playgrounds, or other public buildings or facilities.
But various lawmakers had differing opinions on exactly what the new law did. A sponsor in the state house said Tennessee wouldn’t dictate policy for businesses. However, five state senators who supported the law said employers that enforce a gun ban on their property could run afoul of Tennessee’s retaliatory discharge laws.
A state representative asked Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr. to issue his opinion on the matter.
Cooper said the new law doesn’t prohibit an employer from terminating an at-will employee who brings a firearm or ammunition onto the employer’s property.
After Cooper issued his opinion, some lawmakers disagreed with it. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said lawmakers in Tennessee “created a statutory right allowing permit holders to lawfully keep a firearm store in their cars while at work.”
Opponents of the law have said it places the rights of gun permit holders above those of property owners. Among the employers that opposed the law: East Tennessee State University, Mountain State Health Alliance and Eastman Chemical Co.
Starbucks created a controversy when it said it would ban its patrons from bringing guns into its shops. Because of public outcry, Starbucks stopped short of a ban in its shops, but the company did ask patrons not to bring guns.
Now Tennessee lawmakers want to clear up any confusion on this matter. They plan to pass legislation tweaking the law they passed last year.
The lawmakers haven’t announced yet just how they plan to do that.
Guns: Safety threat at work?
Before Tennessee passed the so-called guns-in-parking-lots law, it enacted another one that said a company’s decision to permit handguns at work doesn’t amount to an occupational safety hazard.
The new law was in response to a complaint by a server at a Nashville bar.
The server filed a complaint with Tennessee OSHA (TOSHA), claiming that mixing firearms and booze created hazards for workers.
Although TOSHA ruled against the employee, it also said each case of gun possession in a workplace that served alcohol would be considered on its own merits. The law passed by the legislature took that decision out of the hands of TOSHA.
What do you think about laws that allow licensed gun permit holders to keep their firearms and ammunition in their vehicles in their employer’s parking areas? Are guns at work a safety hazard? Does this place the rights of gun owners above those of property owners? Let us know what you think in the comments.