No compromise for guns

No compromise for guns

January 7th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Some state legislators still pretend to believe they can find a reasonable "compromise" between business owners who don't want their employees leaving guns in their cars on their parking lots, and gun owners and NRA lobbyists who insist on that privilege. Take the latest idea, offered by state Sen. Stacey Campfield. He proposes to institute the outmoded "don't ask, don't tell" rule that the Pentagon tried for years in a futile compromise on gay rights.

The formula never worked because it involved an untenable pretense by people on both sides of the rule. Gays and lesbians were denied equal civil rights with respect to their sexual orientation, and forced to live that part of their lives in a quiet shadow. If their sexual orientation was reported, they were ousted from the military regardless of the meritorious service they typically provided to their country.

The nation finally learned the lesson of the futility of such a pretense. Campfield, R-Knoxville, doesn't seem to have gotten the message. He claims his formulation of a "don't ask, don't tell for guns" policy would let business owners and gun-carriers alike get "what they want out of" the compromise.

"Businesses can post [against guns]on their property. But you can't make searching of someone's vehicle for a gun a condition of employment."

Baloney. That's precisely where his flimsy rationale breaks down: He would let employers search vehicles in cases of suspected theft, but he would forbid them the right to search employees' vehicles simply to ascertain whether employees are violating their rule barring the keeping of guns in vehicles parked on their property.

Many employers would not tolerate that restriction, nor the implicit lie or pretense inherent in Campfield's proposal. Courts likely would be on their side. Employers already enjoy the right to require employees to take urine tests for illicit drug use, and to forbid smoking on their property, among other personal and civil restrictions. They almost certainly would contest restrictions on their right to deny employees permission to bring guns onto their private property, or to verify compliance with their policy. They would also object to a secretive pretense deliberately designed to allow employees to keep guns in their cars on employers' parking lots.

Campfield's proposal is hardly a novel version of controversial pro-gun-carry provisions for employers' parking lots. Senate Majority Leader Ron Ramsey describes his own proposal -- to let employees with gun-carry permits keep their guns locked in their car on employers' parking lots -- as a "compromise," as well.

These untenable proposals are just the latest in a fierce two-year debate over employee gun rights that has generated vehement opposition from many of the state's largest employers, including Volkswagen and the University of Tennessee. Employers rightly oppose gun-carry on their property by employees as a grave intrusion on their private property rights, and as a blatant breach of their security and safety policies, and their legal and fiduciary responsibilities to enforce policies to protect their employees.

They have good reason to be concerned about violation of their property rights, safety obligations and civil liability: This nation has a long and bloody record of angry employees going on shooting sprees in their plants and leaving many of their former co-workers shot to death. Employers must do everything they can to prevent such tragedies.

Employers, of course, have already killed a similar proposal to allow employees with gun permits to leave their guns in employers' parking lots, and to deny employers the right to ask their employees whether they leave guns in their parking spaces. So it seems pretty clear that there really is no compromise to be had. Lawmakers can uphold employers' rights to bar guns from their premises, to verify compliance, or they can elevate guns over employers, and lose jobs and companies.

By now, the answer should be obvious. The NRA's model "safe-commute" proposal -- another contribution from the NRA lobby in the corporate-dominated American Legislative Exchange Council's packet of right-wing legislative ideas -- has gone beyond the traditional dividing line between the gun-rights lobby and the corporate-profit lobby. In this case, jobs should win, not guns-everywhere advocates.