The Security Director NewsWire

March 21, 2005

Gun law fires up debate

By Andrea Gural

OKLAHOMA CITY - A proposed bill that would protect companies from legal liability if an employee used a firearm in an act of workplace violence was set to go before a state Senate committee by the end of the month, but workplace violence experts agreed that liability is only an ancillary concern when it comes to guns in the workplace.

According to state law, employers in Oklahoma cannot prohibit their employees from keeping a loaded firearm in their locked vehicles on company property. That law, however, was put on hold by a federal judge late last year after several state businesses, sued to overturn it.

Homicides in the workplace numbered 631 in 2003, the first jump since 2000, according the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, and firearms are known to be used in a majority of workplace incidents. Which is why most corporate security policies have a zero tolerance stance around having “ anything to do with firearms in or around the workplace,” said Jim Pastor, president of SecureLaw, a Chicago-based public safety and security consulting firm. “This kind of law further exacerbate the attempts to secure the workplace in a way that makes a security director’s job a lot more difficult.”

Residents of Oklahoma have had a right-to-carry law since 1995, but a second law was passed last year after employees of Weyerhaeuser paper mill were dismissed after guns were discovered in their vehicles during a search for drugs. Now, such corporations as Whirlpool, ConocoPhillips and Williams Co., with support from the State Chamber and its 2,000 businesses in Oklahoma, have filed a lawsuit to have the law repealed.

Ray Carter, media director for the Oklahoma House, said that House Bill 1243, authored by Rep. Greg Piatt, which would protect businesses and gun owners from liability if the gun was used for harm, appears to have support in the Oklahoma legislature, although many businesses are holding back from joining the second amendment fight in Oklahoma, he said.