Guns in Your Workplace Parking Lot? Thanks, NRA!

Maybe the National Rifle Association feels enough time has elapsed since Robert Hawkins gunned down 13 Christmas shoppers at an Omaha mall. Maybe it knows a President Huckabee or Thompson is a pipe dream.

In any case, the NRA is back in the Georgia legislature, reviving its campaign to prohibit businesses from forbidding employees from keeping firearms in their cars.

The bill was defeated as an obscene sequel to the Virginia Tech shootings back in April despite NRA threats to Georgia lawmakers that a vote for adjournment would be a vote against the bill and earn them an NRA"F."

The Georgia "parking lot" bill is modeled after an Oklahoma law written after eight workers at a Weyerhaeuser plant in Valliant, Okla., were fired for having guns in their vehicles in 2002. When ConocoPhillips, which employs 3,000 in Oklahoma and feared the writing on the wall, challenged the law -- since struck down by federal courts but under appeal -- NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre vowed revenge.

"We're going to make ConocoPhillips the example of what happens when a corporation takes away your Second Amendment rights," he thundered in 2005, announcing a boycott that no one, including ConocoPhillips, noticed.

Meanwhile, the American Bar Association condemned the parking lot law as a violation of property rights at its annual meeting in 2007, noting that 800 people a year are killed by guns in the U.S. workplace.

Of course most of the world goes to work, school and the store without the help of a firearm and enjoys the fact that others did the same.

But the NRA says property owners and municipalities that ban firearms violate its members' rights.

"You could have a constitutional right to have a firearm in your home, and you could ride around with it in your car, but you couldn't stop anywhere. You could have every gas station, every hotel, every motel put off limits," says LaPierre. "So, in effect, this [banned weapons on parking lots] is a wrecking ball for the Second Amendment. It's also a blueprint for totally eviscerating and nullifying right-to-carry legislation in 38 states in our country."

Last year a similar parking lot bill in Florida that even prohibited churches and hospitals from banning firearms was resoundingly defeated with the help of the Florida Retail Federation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, which are conversant with gun shot costs.

Nor have the string of Miami-Dade police shootings since then -- starting with police officer Jose Somohano and three of his colleagues in September and continuing through the slaying of James Walker just last week -- helped the NRA cause in Florida.

The NRA is assuring the Georgia business community that the parking lot law wouldn't mean they'd be liable for gun violence on their property "unless the employer anticipated and failed to prevent an armed criminal act by a specific individual on the premises" and that their insurance costs would go down not up.

But Joe Fleming, senior vice president for government affairs at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce says the NRA's message to its members, "If you hunt or own a gun, you'll be fired!" is fear mongering.

The NRA has already "threatened all Georgia senators who fail to fall on bended knee with [receiving] 'F's' on the next NRA re-election scorecard," he writes in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Those senators who don't succumb to the NRA's bully tactics, name-calling, temper tantrums, insults and lies will be subjected to election-year retaliation."

Even NRA member Bob Thornton, a former liquor store owner, says enough is enough, "I really object to the government getting involved to say what's allowed on my property," said the Arnoldsville, Ga., resident at the kickoff news conference for the law in January in Atlanta, clad in a "Wayne Never Asked Me" T-shirt and heckling LaPierre.

But Chris Cox, NRA's chief lobbyist writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution sees other demographics than its members being oppressed by parking lot gun bans, including "workers, like the single mother with an abusive ex, who comply with these rigid policies [and] are forced to decide between their paychecks and their safety" and evangelicals because "corporate lobbyists in Florida have defiantly told legislators that they can even ban Bibles from workers' cars."

And while most women would rather see their abusive ex disarmed than arm themselves, it may be too late to quibble.

The fast-tracked NRA bill is expected to reach a floor vote in the Senate by the end of the week, three days after a Rules Committee hearing.


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