WASHINGTON: Republican-dominated legislatures in at least four US states are planning to consider allowing employees to bring guns to work, turning two of the party’s traditional constituencies against each other: gun-rights supporters and businesses.
The measures, backed by the National Rifle Association, would allow workers in Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and Pennsylvania to keep weapons locked and hidden in their cars in employee parking areas.
Seventeen states have approved similar measures since 2003, according to a tally by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.
The laws have prompted opposition from companies such as FedEx and Volkswagen.
The law’s proponents say the measures are needed to protect employees during commutes. They say that employers who ban guns on their property are preventing workers from possessing their weapons when they commute, leaving them vulnerable to attack.
‘‘This provides safety and protection for workers who oftentimes travel 20 to 50 miles (30 to 80 kilometres) to their jobs,’’ said Alabama state senator Roger Bedford, a Democrat who has introduced a parking lot gun law in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.
Senator Bedford said he introduced the measure at the request of constituents. He couldn’t point to any incident in which a commuter would have benefited from having a gun in the car.
‘‘The problem we have is that businesses are being allowed to erode and take away our Second Amendment right to bear arms,’’ he said. ‘‘The guns would only be allowed for legally licensed people, and they’d have to be locked up and out of sight.’’
Opponents say the laws threaten employers’ ability to control workplace safety.
Workplace homicides average about 500 a year in the US, according to studies by ASIS International Foundation, a Virginia-based security professional association, and by the Justice Department.
Shootings accounted for 80 per cent of workplace homicides between 2005 and 2009, with most involving robberies and 21 percent stemming from employee disputes, according to the 2011 Justice report.
Darrell Scott, a lobbyist with the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce in Columbia, said the bill is widely opposed by the businesses in his state because it limits their ability to set policy on their property.
"We believe that a property owner’s right to provide a safe work environment trumps an individual’s right to possess a firearm on the owner’s property,’’ said Maury Donahue, a spokeswoman for FedEx.
Reid Albert, in charge of security for Volkswagen’s Chattanooga operations, said dismissals and parking lot arguments might both become more dangerous if guns are allowed in cars at the workplace.