Wednesday, November 24, 2004

When Red State Values Collide

CBS MarketWatch reports:
Bosses Fret Okla. Law Allows Guns in Cars
11/24/2004 7:16:00 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY, Nov 24, 2004 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- A new state law allowing employees to keep guns in their locked cars on company property has alarmed some of Oklahoma's biggest corporations and pitted them against gun enthusiasts.

The law was passed by the Legislature earlier this year and was scheduled to go into effect Nov. 1, but a federal judge blocked its enforcement while he considers a challenge brought by companies fearful that guns at work could lead to bloodshed.

Employers say the law interferes with their right to restrict what happens on company property.

Williams Cos., the Tulsa-based energy company, and oil giant ConocoPhillips Inc., with offices in Bartlesville and a refinery in Ponca City, are suing to stop the law from taking effect. The State Chamber, which represents some 2,000 businesses in Oklahoma and 26 other states, has also filed briefs against the law.

"We have cases all the time where there are fights on the property. That's where we're coming from," said David Strecker, attorney for the State Chamber. He added: "If somebody got mad they wouldn't have far to go."

The measure was adopted after a paper company in Oklahoma fired several employees when guns were found in their vehicles during a drug sweep. Workplaces can still prohibit people from entering businesses with guns.

Democratic state Sen. Frank Shurden, a co-author the law, said Oklahomans need guns for protection. "You get out in the dark in rural Oklahoma, you better be armed and ready for action," he said. "There's no telling what's going to happen."

As for the potential for workplace shootings, he said: "These are decent and responsible people. "We aren't going to have any shoot-outs like the Old West every time someone gets mad."

Whirlpool Corp., which employs 1,500 at a Tulsa plant, was the original plaintiff in the case. The appliance maker said it asked to withdraw this week after being assured by the state attorney general that the new law would not override an Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation or Whirlpool's existing ban on weapons on company property.

U.S. District Judge Sven Erik Holmes has heard arguments in the case, but said Tuesday said a higher court must first decide whether the penalty for violating the law is criminal or civil.