The Proposed Florida “Take Your Gun to Work” Law

Glenn Reynolds reviews the proposed legislation on its merits. He is mildly positive but points out that a talk-radio discussion of the bill “illustrates how quick people are, even on the right, to constitutionalize all sorts of arguments that aren’t really about the Constitution at all.” Hey, it’s the American way.

I don’t have a strong opinion about the Florida bill. IMO people have a right to defend themselves, our society should tolerate individual self-defense efforts, and our laws should reflect that tolerance by not putting gratuitous barriers in the way of people who want to exercise their rights. But I also think it’s important to respect people’s rights to property and contract, and one of the ways to do that is to avoid passing laws that increase the State’s authority over the terms of employer/employee relationships. I think employers are foolish to forbid employees from having guns in their cars, but resolving such issues should be a matter for private negotiation rather than legislation.

However (and here comes the central point of this post), the proposed Florida law isn’t really about Constitutional rights except in a symbolic sense. What it is really about is limiting the power of officials — mayors, police chiefs, prosecutors, etc. — who have a history of abusing their discretionary authority. The current Florida proposal follows enactment of Florida’s new (and much demagogued) “Stand Your Ground” law, which is intended to make it difficult for prosecutors to victimize citizens who defend themselves in their homes, and of Florida’s 1987 concealed-carry law, which substituted a nondiscretionary state-administered permitting regime for the much-abused discretion of local governments.

I have some sympathy for people who complain that the big bad State government is riding roughshod over their local autonomy. Sometimes it’s true. But in other cases the legislature would not have gotten involved if local officials and State’s attorneys had exercised more restraint in applying their considerable discretionary authority. What goes around comes around (at least in politically competitive States like Florida). Officials who treat citizens capriciously should not be surprised when citizens use the legislature to put the officials on a shorter leash.

(Related post: Here)

15 thoughts on “The Proposed Florida “Take Your Gun to Work” Law”

  1. Shannon: A better question would be, “If my state (like Illinois) doesn’t allow concealed carry in any form, can I sue the state if I’m injured by an illegally-gun-wielding felon?”

  2. While Glenn’s right in a technical sense, his complaint is pretty easy to meet. Because it would be entirely true to say:

    Those companies are preventing their employees from exercising their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, during the work week.

    Doesn’t sound all that much better than what those callers were saying, no?

    While I’d like to see the State stay out of the way of most employee – employer interactions, that isn’t going to happen. So it’s nice to see it not happening in a way that pisses of the “liberals”.

  3. Shannon: obviously, you can’t sue. Nobody made you work for the anti-gun employer. You did so with of your own volition, and with full cognizance of the risks you would incur by doing so.

    Bottom line: take responsibility for your own safety.

  4. Of course you can sue. That doesn’t mean you can win.

    The employer would make the case that he is not responsible for the proximate acts against you, and that you should sue a person who assaults you. He will state that he did what he could to protect you by banning guns from the parking lot.

    Anything the employer does (spot searches ectera) is from another point of view, an action that he has taken to keep a bad guy from being able to hurt you.

  5. Vermont has the best approach to self defense, whether open-carry or concealed-carry.

    The only problem is, since Vermonters are sensible enough to recognize that self defense is a basic human right, and none of the state’s business, they don’t enjoy reciprocal rights when travelling in any other state, as many permit holders in many states do.

  6. If employers were given the right to restrict what employees had in their cars, why stop at guns? Could employers outlaw SUVs or political bumperstickers or not allow you to have PLAYBOY magazines in your back seat?

    I think the critical factort is, it is your car. As long as it stays in your car and is not illegal, e.g. you could not have a kilo of Cocaine in your trunk, then the employer must stay out of your car.

  7. This is a difficult thing for me. I want the right to protect myself, but I worry about people carrying guns who may have problems with anger management. There seem to be more of them all the time. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been to seminars on violence in the workplace.

    If somebody goes postal, I’d like to know that there was someone else around who could drop him, but would more guns create more such incidents?

    I think all responsible citizens have the right to keep and bear arms, but it’s finding that line between responsble and not that I find troubling.

  8. AST – This goes back to the basic point that many people have against gun control. Is someone willing to commit a major crime (murder, going ‘postal’) really going to be stopped from bringing a gun to work because of a rule that his/her employer has about guns in the parking lot?

    On the other hand, the hypothetical citizen who might stop above criminal will likely observe the employers rules, and thus be unarmed.

  9. In 2000 a sicko named “Mucko” McDermott killed seven coworkers in Edgewater Technologies in Massachusetts. It later came out that one of the victims, Louis Javelle, was from New Hampshire and his request for a reciprocal Mass. carry permit had been denied (as they generally are).

    More story here:\Nation\archive\200311\NAT20031118a.html

    Personally, I’d think that it’s the *un*likelihood of victims being armed that lets these nutsos gin up superman fantasies of being able to go in and just blow everybody away. Knowing there’s a real chance some of your cubemates are packing might diminish the impulse.

  10. One more thing. As a business owner, I would be very nervous about having a pro-carry policy because of liability fears. Say HR calls somebody in for a talking-to, and it’s known this guy carries, and he says something like “you guys really shouldn’t be threatening me.”

    Guess what, my policy is creating a “hostile environment” for that HR girl. We can fire him, fersure, but she might sue me as well. The problem which this bill addresses has to do with the virtually unlimited liability employers have for what happens within their walls.

    If you look, statistics show business owners are strongly right-wing, andyet we’ve all gone along with all kinds of sexual harassment training, EEO programs, etc. because getting caught up in politics can be very bad for business.

  11. The obvious reason for the busines reluctance is the liability issue. The new law should relieve them of that worry and responsibility.

  12. Snob:
    “Hostile environment” grounds for suit do not apply to a literal hostile environment, only to the pansy “hostile environment” BASED ON RACE OR SEX. Even then, you are only vulnerable to suit if you do not respond to complaints about a hostile racial or sexual environment. More generally, however, I think you are right that anti-gun lawyers will be very eager to try to sue employers who let employees be armed, if an employee ever does commit a gun crime. That’s why we need ever more legislative solutions, blocking the various ways that the leftists try to misallocate blame. It’s kind of like a photo-negative of the Jim Crow system. Every time a new form of integration occurred, a Jim Crow law would be passed to block it. Every time the liberty haters find a new way to misallocate responsibility for gun crime, we will need to pass a new law to block it.

  13. Here’s a NON-hypothetical: the parking lots of a nuclear power plant.

    Currently, the FEDs demand no firearms in the cars and you can be fired – quickly – if one is found there. The utility assumes the right of search on their property.

    Of course, no weapons, period, “inside the fence.”

    Who rules – the state or the feds?

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