Guns At Work

Many companies, if not most companies, including my own, have a prohibition against possession of firearms by employees on company property. 

But in 2008, the Florida Legislature in its infinite wisdom passed a law called the Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act, commonly known as the Guns At Work law.  In a nutshell, the law states that persons with a concealed weapons permit may keep weapons in their vehicles while at work.

The law was heavily pushed by the NRA, specifically by Marion Hammer, who is a Florida lobbyist and past president (and first female president) of the NRA.  Opposed were the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Retail Federation, Disney, and Wal-Mart, all of whom are powerful interests.   That being the case, I’m surprised the law passed.  It’s also a sign that hell has frozen over when I’m on the same side as Wal-Mart.  Actually, I have mixed feelings about the law.  But frankly speaking, as an employer, I don’t ever want to be concerned that I may piss off some employee who goes to his car at lunch and pulls out a weapon.  I already go out of my way to be respectful, even if I have bad news (like “You’re fired”) but that’s good practice anyway. 

On Monday, I learned the following information about an employee who had been with us for less than a month:  he was feeling discriminated against; he’d been admitted for inpatient psychiatric treatment twice last year; and he had a handgun in his truck.  Which he pulled out and displayed to a security guard at my workplace.  It wasn’t so much that he had the gun, it was the context.  My boss, who operates in another city but was in town, said, “He has to go” and volunteered to handle it so as to take the focus off me and my second-in-command person, who was the true target of this person’s paranoia. 

I insisted on calling the police to be present.  My boss said he didn’t think that was necessary.  I insisted some more, and whined, so he finally agreed to humor me.  From the minute I called the police, it was clear that they took the situation very seriously, perhaps in part because the security guard was so specific about the weapon…I was able to tell them it was a Taurus .357 Magnum.  So this was not a fantasy, we think he may have a gun.  It was, he has a gun and this is what kind. 

Two officers showed up, one of whom was wearing his bulletproof vest outside his shirt.  That is a very fearsome and intimidating sight. 

My boss planned to tell the employee that since he was in his 90-day probationary period, it just wasn’t working out.  I lobbied for telling him we knew he had a gun, but I was overruled both by the boss and by the police.  Much of what I know now I learned since this incident, and the main thing is that the operative word in the law is “concealed”.  Assuming he had a concealed weapons permit, it is a violation of the law to take it out of concealment for any reason except to use it, and that has to be guided by strict definitions of self-defense. 

In any case, my boss delivered the news with no mention of the gun.  The employee handed his keys to me.  Then he asked me to go with him to a storeroom where he had some personal items.  The police said, “No.  She can’t go.  We’ll go.”  My boss went too.  Once in the storeroom, the employee pulled a knife from his pocket which he intended to use to cut some twist ties, but who knew that?  That by itself tells me what poor judgement the guy had.  Had it been me, faced with two armed police officers, I would have asked permission to pull my driver’s license out of my wallet.

Apparently the reaction was swift.  My boss said the next thing he knew, one of the officers pushed him out of the way and said “Stay behind me.”  The two officers arranged themselves in an L-shaped formation, to prevent crossfire, and my boss said he heard a sound he’ll probably be hearing in his dreams for some time to come–the sound of both officers simultaneously unsnapping their holsters. 

In the end, the guy left peacefully and everyone was safe.  But it could have been otherwise. 

Oddly enough, the same day this happened, Timothy Egan of the NY Times posted an entry on his blog called The Guns of Spring. http://egan.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/the-guns-of-spring/?ref=opinion  Here’s a quote: 

“If it was peanut butter or pistachio nuts taking down people by the dozens every week, we’d be all over it. Witness the recent recalls. But Glocks and AKs — can’t touch ‘em. So we’re awash in guns: 280 million.”  I don’t know the answer.  There is something to the NRA slogan, “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”  And yet, Egan notes that he lost a nephew to gun violence and can’t help but take it personally.  This week, it became personal to me.

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12 responses to “Guns At Work

  1. The gun laws in this country are archaic! Any reasonable adult should know that we need gun reform in this country as of yesterday.

    I think in the last week there have been over 25 killings with guns in this country. That includes the three children murdered last night in New Orleans.

    Criminals will always be criminals but what really scares me is the suburban whack job with a locker of semi-automatic weapons going on a rampage.

  2. Guns – no!

    Samurai swords – Yes!

  3. Egan’s post says that the murder rate in the U.S. is 3 times greater than in Canada and the U.K., and five times greater than in Canada., and 70% of murders are committed with guns. Something needs to change.

  4. sorry…five times greater in Germany.

  5. Scarry stuff, having the cops present was the thing to do. May want to revisit your hiring check list huh?

    Food and manufacturing are not specifically mentioned in the bill of rights. The second ammendment has recently been upheld by SCOTUS, it is not really a talking point right now it is the law of the land. I don’t like hand guns personally but what I see in England reinforces my support of the right to bear arms. When you give them up you are at the mercy of all the bad guys.

  6. Pt, I have personally owned two handguns in the past. I know people who carry them in their vehicles, and probably many more people that I know do so, I just don’t know about it.
    The points made by the NRA in lobbying for the Florida law I mentioned are that hunters who want to go hunting before or after work should not be penalized for having weapons in their vehicles, and as for handguns, that people need the ability to protect themselves going to and from work. I can’t argue with those points.
    But I believe there should be more regulation. Right now in Florida you do not have to register weapons or have a permit to purchase them. Don’t get me started on gun and knife shows, where whatever meager restrictions there are are ignored. Gun nuts oppose more regulation and cry that the government should stay out of our business. But as you have frequently pointed out, one of the highest priorities of government is protection of its citizens. I want my government to protect me from lunatics with guns, even if it means stepping on the toes of law-abiding gun owners.

  7. Yesterday in Tampa a paroled felon walked into a pharmacy with a syringe and threatened the employees with an injection of the aids virus. The pharmacist pulled a pistol and said “get out of here before you get hurt.” He left!

    I have yet to see or hear of a pistol walking up to anyone and pulling its own trigger. I do want the government to keep me safe, particularly from foreign intervention which I can do little about. But I can protect my personal property before I can call the cops in an emergency like the pharmacist confronted. I refuse to give up that right without a strenuous exercise in democracy.

    Bad people do exist!

  8. Pt…we are not on opposite sides here 🙂

  9. “I want my government to protect me from lunatics with guns, even if it means stepping on the toes of law-abiding gun owners.”

    Now that sounds exactly like the Bush administration. Situational ethics. not sure what you have in mind abut law-abiding gun owners. Who makes that judgement? Liberals?

    It will be interesting to see how the current shit storm around publicizing classified CIA policy making plays out. Sounds ominously like a propaganda attack, and is also situational ethics. Some would say treasonous. It identifies federal employees to the enemy, making them terrorists targets. While Homeland Security seems more concerned with Right Wing Extremists. Makes me dizzy.

  10. I hope you aren’t among those who say it’s treasonous. You should read eehard’s post today of Jon Stewart “We Don’t Torture”.
    As for law-abiding gun owners, don’t be obtuse. The NRA, which I hate with a passion, foils every attempt at any gun law of any kind, taking the tack that if they make you register your gun, next they will take it away. Which one of the recent lunatics used as an excuse to slaughter a bunch of people while he still had the chance, I guess.
    You should be cautious about these responses…I have hypertension and if I have a stroke I’m blaming it on you!

  11. Timothy McVeigh used a bomb, which we have laws against. I don’t think I need to connect the dots between legislating morality………and its constant failure.

    I think we need to regulate the manufacturing of guns better. i.e. discontinue making assault weapons and ammo. Make it much tougher to get new ones. The only people who need them at all are law enforcement and military. So have a government regulated manufacturer with strict control and enact onerous penalties for anyone caught with one in their possession. Hand guns, rifles, shotguns are part of our heritage and laws and we just ain’t gonna give them up. No citizen can really demonstrate a need for a weapon to kill dozens of people.

    As for Obama coming down on previous policy at the expense of the incumbents he is equating it to War crimes by Nazis. I think it is very political and very shabby and it will cost him in the hearts of government employees. We were not legally equipped to fight a war like the one brought on us and humans were trying to cope with the surreal responsibilities thrust upon them. The CIA were not the perps here. Afterwards the liberals screamed in protests, but when their asses seemed on the line it was “do what ya gotta do guys.”

    I think it sucks.

    I highly recommend Metoprolo and lots of fish oil for hypertension. ALong with moderate exercise, like bike riding and swiming.

  12. When has Obama compared CIA torture to the the Nazis? And it now comes to light that the CIA asked to use these methods, then the Bush Justice Dept. lawyers dreamed up justifications for them.
    “Afterwards the liberals screamed in protests, but when their asses seemed on the line it was “do what ya gotta do guys.”” This is a total misrepresentation and you know it. It’s unworthy of you. No one knew about it. It is not situational ethics to say that torture is wrong…always. Americans of all political persuasions were disgusted by Abu Graib…now we hear about what we were doing in Gitmo.
    But this post was about guns at work! We should have another post about the above topic. I am with you. Ban assault weapons to start with. And thanks for the health advice.

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