Okla. Gun Law: Keep It
It's amazing sometimes the lengths we will go to in this culture to wrestle over points that in themselves really aren't the point. Take for example the wrangling that is going on over the state of Oklahoma's law banning employers from prohibiting their employees from keeping guns in their cars on company property.
The piles of legal bills stem from a 2002 sweep of cars at a Weyerhaeuser plant in Oklahoma that resulted in 12 employees losing their jobs when it was found they had guns in their cars on company property.
State lawmakers reacted by passing a new law, concluding, correctly, that the employees had the right to keep guns in their cars. To wit: "No person, property owner, tenant, employer or business entity shall be permitted to establish any policy or rule 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."
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the state lawmakers reasoned, was fairly clear on this point. Congress, that hallowed document states, and by extension, any other legal entity in this country, does not have the right to interfere with law-abiding people possessing legal firearms.
For a person who lives and works in a rural region and who raises sheep or cattle to augment his living, the time to shoot a varmint that is menacing his flock is when he sees it. When, driving to and from work, he sees that coyote or feral dog he must have his gun handy, or that pretty little lamb his prized ewe just gave birth to will eventually wet the whistle of that predator with her blood. That's just one reason why Oklahoma citizens need to keep guns in trucks and cars.
The pact of U.S. citizens with their government that guarantees their right to bear arms is centuries old and the Oklahoma legislature is right to conclude that it supersedes corporate governance of property that the company will control in all likelihood for a shorter period of time than the two-plus centuries that comprise the life of this representative democracy.
ConocoPhillips, which has 3,100 employees in Oklahoma, and other companies are challenging the Oklahoma law. The corporations believe they have a good case. They believe that employees who don't have guns in their cars will be much less likely to shoot their co-workers because they won't have access to their guns when the motivating fit of rage strikes them ... pretty logic indeed. That logic works, but only up to a point. In truth, it is merely a piece of sophistry and it eludes the real issue, which readers have surely read about before. Still, the point deserves repeating for emphasis.
The reason people kill other people is not because they have the means to kill them. If that were the case, hundreds of us would die every day. We all have objects at our disposal, whether they be cars, pruning shears, office chairs, or our naked hands, that could knock the living daylights out of our enemies.
No, the issue isn't with guns. It's with the people who use them.
In almost every workplace shooting incident that you can point to, the person who ended up being driven to such a horrible end gave ample evidence that they were deeply disturbed and intended on doing themselves or somebody else harm. If guns weren't at their disposal, they would have found something else.
Often, there are clues to citizens whom are about to erupt in a hail of gunfire: they write violence-infused plays that they post on MySpace pages, or they exhibit a morbid fascination with Uzis, hand grenades or Japanese fighting swords.
In almost every case adults who knew better, and that means management, ignored the evidence, or worse, acted like sheep and ran from the evidence.
If you want to forestall workplace violence, what's so difficult about saying to someone you work with, "Hey, is everything all right? What's going on in your life? Do you need to talk?"
The enemy of workplace safety in this country is not a snub-nosed 38 or 22-caliber rifle. Both are excellent choices for rat or rabbit hunting and should never be banned from the cars of sane, law-abiding people.
The enemy of workplace safety in this country is our culture of denial. Our blindness to the bleeding that is going on in the very souls of the people we spend many of our waking hours sitting next to.
DAN REYNOLDS is senior editor of Risk & Insurance®.
May 1, 2008
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