Legal contest: gun rights v. property owner rights


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Remander
December 2, 2004, 11:13 AM
http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1101738488286

Law Allowing Guns in Cars at Work Contested

June D. Bell
The National Law Journal
12-02-2004


In a unique case that pits fear of workplace violence against the right to bear arms, Oklahoma businesses are challenging a new state law that permits employees to keep firearms in cars parked in company lots.

The law's opponents obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the legislation from taking effect on Nov. 1. The parties were back in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma last week, when the judge said he would ask the state's highest criminal court to decide whether the controversial law is a civil or criminal statute.

Several companies doing business in Oklahoma have claimed that the new law violates employers' property rights and due process rights, is unconstitutionally vague and is inconsistent with federal laws regulating firearms. Those businesses bar firearms from their properties. Whirlpool Corp. v. C. Brad Henry, No. 04-CV-820-H(J) (N.D. Okla.).

Plaintiffs ConocoPhillips and the Williams Cos. assert that the statute impairs their ability to guarantee workplace safety by prohibiting weapons on their property. Tulsa's police chief filed an affidavit in support, and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Halliburton Co. submitted amicus briefs.

ConocoPhillips and the Williams Cos. were originally intervenors in the litigation but last week became plaintiffs, replacing Whirlpool Corp., which abruptly dismissed its complaint.

Whirlpool's attorney, Kimberly Lambert Love of Boone, Smith, Davis, Hurst & Dickman in Tulsa, said: "Based on what the attorney general represented to the court, we believe we'll be able to keep our policy in place and protect employees." She would not elaborate.

Steven A. Broussard, who is representing the new plaintiffs, said Whirlpool's dismissal does not change his clients' views. "We still think there is a real issue here and we need to pursue it," said Broussard of Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson in Tulsa.

The law at issue, an amendment to Oklahoma's Self-Defense Act of 1995, bars businesses from establishing any policy "that has the effect of prohibiting any person, except a convicted felon, from transporting and storing firearms in a locked vehicle on any property set aside for any vehicle."

Its sponsor, Representative Jerry Ellis, noted that about 90 percent of the state's legislators supported the bill, as did Governor Brad Henry, who signed it on March 31.

Ellis, who regularly carries guns in his car, said he wanted to protect "our constitutional right to transport and store a firearm in a locked vehicle." He said his former employer, Weyerhaeuser Co., inspired him to draft the legislation.

Weyerhaeuser used trained dogs to sniff vehicles in its parking lot in October 2002, and fired mill workers and contractors who violated its prohibition against guns and drugs on company property. Ellis said the incident occurred during deer season, but a Weyerhaeuser spokesman said the search was deliberately scheduled when only bow hunting was permitted. Ellis did not have a weapon in his vehicle at the time of the search.

Before the legislation could take effect, opponents rushed to court to halt it. Noting that 77 percent of workplace homicides in 2002 and 2003 were committed with guns, Whirlpool argued that the new law conflicted with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires business owners to provide a hazard-free workplace. The law was also attacked as unconstitutionally vague because it does not define "firearm" or "locked vehicle."

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office sought to have the suit dismissed, arguing that the defendants -- the state's governor and attorney general -- enjoy 11th Amendment immunity from challenges in federal court.

Neither defendant has the "power or duty to enforce the amended statue, which would allow jurisdiction over them," Guy L. Hurst, chief of litigation for the attorney general's office, wrote in a motion to dismiss. If businesses want to sue, he said, they must do it in state court.

At last week's hearing, U.S. Chief District Judge Sven Erik Holmes said he would ask Oklahoma's Court of Criminal Appeals to determine whether the statute is criminal or civil. If it is deemed a civil statute, the state's sovereign immunity argument would be more likely to prevail, Hurst said, and the matter would be hashed out in state court.

If the law is found to be part of the state's penal code -- as the plaintiffs claim, citing its violation as a misdemeanor offense -- the defendants are appropriate and the case would most likely proceed in federal court.

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DRZinn
December 2, 2004, 01:32 PM
My car is just as much an extension of me as my home or my pockets. However, if I agree to a policy, including one of no weapons, it can be enforced.

Smurfslayer
December 2, 2004, 02:55 PM
Especially in light of AO(heL)L's persistence in firing it's two employees. All this law says is that companys cannot ban firearms in a vehicle, not all property. This is certainly going to make waves one way or the other.

First, if the company actually does own the property, they do have domain over it in as much as it is "actually" private. By that, I mean that if the parking lot is "open to the public" by view, or access, they're not making an effort for the company to exert it's "domain" by privacy etc... So the company parking lot which is nothing more than a slab of asphalt which can be seen for hundreds of yards - there is no expectation of privacy there, and a person can still be prosecuted for crimes like indecent exposure, etc.

But let's say that the parking lot is not just an open slab, let's say it's underground, and gated - clearly private. You have a key to the gate as an employee. You are employed there, and, as a result, there by invitation, so in a way, you are not there by accident, rather, by invitation.

May the "private actor" here ban items on it's property? probably so... But, this company is licensed as an employer by the state, nothing prevents a state from making that license, or something similar conditional on compliance with a "rule" saying that you may not prevent firearms in a vehicle ... (being very general).

I think this law is a step in the right direction. These companies need to have their cages rattled. Being disarmed at a place of employment does nothing to promote safety, and frankly, this attitude has to change. If armed workplaces were more dangerous, then cops would be constantly getting shot at police stations... surprise, surprise, that doesn't happen...

There is no security at my place of employment, and the company could certainly afford it. They choose not to because property and money is more valuable to them than people.

victory
December 2, 2004, 03:12 PM
Plaintiffs ConocoPhillips and the Williams Cos. assert that the statute impairs their ability to guarantee workplace safety by prohibiting weapons on their property.

Ok, it's a deal. They are implying that being able to prohibit weapons on their property guarantee workplace safety, therefore, if something happens, you can sue them for not backing up their guarantee?

RealGun
December 2, 2004, 03:27 PM
If a person was fired by an employer with such a parking lot restriction, they would have done the person a favor, forcing that person to find a better place to work. Life goes on.

Moparmike
December 2, 2004, 07:55 PM
Where does the rights of the land owner stop and the rights of the car owner begin? Where does the landowner get the permission to ban any legally owned belonging that resides inside of the property of someone else? I may dictate what comes on to my property, like no tracked vehicles because they will tear up my lawn, but as long as you dont have a bomb in your car, I probably wont care.

May a landowner who invites employees/people to their property ban...

Certain types of cars?
Certain types of tires on cars?
Cars that contain 6 guage or smaller jumper cables, due to their inadequate load capacity?
Snap-On tools in private cars, because he doesn't like them?
Donut-type spare tires in private cars?
Certain works of literature? Say the owner hated Shakespeare in High School, and wanted to teach those LitArts people a lesson?
Wheels larger than stock?
Bumperstickers?


Where does it end?

mons meg
December 2, 2004, 07:57 PM
There are at least 2 "mature" threads on this topic...suggest mods do a big ol' merge and throw it over here in L&P?

roy berkeley
December 2, 2004, 08:17 PM
Now just a minute-- Even though I am a life-long defender of property rights, I cannot help noticing that the courts have long held that civil rights trump property rights every time. Negrophobes tried to justify the exclusion of blacks from their property (e.g. restaurants, hotels, etc) on the basis of their right to exclude anyone from private property if the presence of members of the excluded group offended their sensibilities. The courts (quite properly, IMO) have consistently held -- and were supported by federal legislation -- that this position was impermissible, that their sensibilities were not as imnportant as the rights of free Americans. The Bill of Rights does not say anything about the right of the individual to have access to public acommodations (federal law has covered that) -- but the Bill of Rights certainly does secure (and the Supreme Court has supported that guarantee) the right of the individual to keep and bear arms (see Dred Scott or Miller). The fact that there are people who are as phobic about firearms as some individuals are about blacks does not change what is right and wrong. The Negrophobes have been (quite properly, IMO) consigned to the dustbin of history. Now it is the turn of the hoplophobes...

Standing Wolf
December 2, 2004, 09:15 PM
My right to defend my life trumps employers' rights to practice shameless anti-Second Amendment bigotry; in any event, my car is as much my property as the parking lot is a company's.

trapperjohn
December 2, 2004, 10:36 PM
We must consider private property rights sacred.

even if it is 'open to the public' No one is forced to go there. Therfore that private property owner is not infringing on anyones any rights. If the owner is a business owner, take your business elsewhere. If the owner is an employer, get another job. Just don't act like a leftist activist and get the Government infringe on someone elses rights.

Yes, i know the courts have made rulings in the past infringing on private property owners. But that does not make it right. Courts can and do make mistakes.

45Badger
December 2, 2004, 11:33 PM
My right to defend my life trumps employers' rights to practice shameless anti-Second Amendment bigotry; in any event, my car is as much my property as the parking lot is a company's.

You keep saying that :)

It's still your choice. Like their choice (and right) to fire you for breaking company policy. :rolleyes:

Fletchette
December 2, 2004, 11:39 PM
I still say that there is a difference between "private property" and "corporate property". If a business is incorporated then the shareholders (owners) agree to all of the Fed equal opportunity laws. If it is Joe Blows private property, than he may be as bigoted as he wants.

RKCheung
December 3, 2004, 12:59 AM
Concealed means concealed after all. ;)

trapperjohn
December 3, 2004, 08:19 AM
I still say that there is a difference between "private property" and "corporate property".

Whats the Difference? It is still private. I own a corporation. My wife and I are the only stockholders. We should be able to do whatever we want with the the property that we have our company purchase.

RealGun
December 3, 2004, 09:53 AM
Whats the Difference? It is still private.

You are digging in to the point of being silly. You give up something when an establishment is "open to the public". How much you give up is debatable, but I think we know you don't have absolute control.

I have a business and my doors are locked. It is not a store per se. There is a huge difference between that scenario and a building that allows free access...no membership, no burly guy standing at the door checking ID, no metal detector. A person entering consents to all that, take it or leave it.

Boats
December 3, 2004, 12:04 PM
Maybe the way to go is to make employers with such policies "strictly liable," by law, for your personal safety and remove the workers' comp immunity shield from the employer if the workplace has a shooting and the estates of the decedents can prove that they may have more effectively defended themselves if only given the opportunity to do so by the employer. Oh yeah, you get a coming and going rule too, because they have effectively disarmed you in transit.

That way, if it's your property, on which you have deprived invitees from effectively defending themselves from criminal action whilst there, you bear the financial damage the invitee bears as a victim, in part, of your feckless policy. Under joint and several liability, the employer could pay all of the actual damages caused by a criminal who violated the workers' paradise, not just those mandated in lieu of non-economic damages by pennypinching comp systems.

The only way employers get away with anti-gun policies is that under the comp rules in most states, your life is exceedingly cheap and they have license to treat you as so much criminal fodder.

dustind
December 3, 2004, 07:07 PM
Where does the rights of the land owner stop and the rights of the car owner begin? Where does the landowner get the permission to ban any legally owned belonging that resides inside of the property of someone else? The property owners control their property. It is their right. You control your car and your land, they control their parking lot.

If you do it that way everyone is happy and gets what they want. If you write laws forcing people into some mold then you never figure out what works best, and everyone is unhappy and violated to some degree.

Basically you can do whatever you want, so long as it does not harm anyone else or violate their rights. If you have property than no one can tell you what to do with it, and you can not tell them what to do with theirs.

If the parking lot owner says no small jumper cables or crappy tires allowed, than everyone can choose to comply, or leave. They may leave even if they meet the requirements, but just do not like the rules.

Same thing goes with people's jackets vs your car. You say what can and can not go in your car.

Sadly many people think "what is mine is mine, and what is yours is ours."

That said, concealed means concealed. :D

Moparmike
December 3, 2004, 09:43 PM
Basically you can do whatever you want, so long as it does not harm anyone else or violate their rights. If you have property than no one can tell you what to do with it, and you can not tell them what to do with theirs.

If the parking lot owner says no small jumper cables or crappy tires allowed, than everyone can choose to comply, or leave. They may leave even if they meet the requirements, but just do not like the rules.

Arent these contradictory statements? :scrutiny:

dustind
December 3, 2004, 10:22 PM
Not obeying the owner's rules would be violateing his property rights, but it is a pretty small violation in this case. The owner can not tell you what to do with your car, but he can kick you off or not let you on his property.

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