Do you know what Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, and Minnesota have in common? As diverse as these states are, they share a unique viewpoint. Each of these states prohibit employers from telling employees they cannot keep a gun in a locked vehicle in a company parking lot. These states do not believe the Occupational Safety and Health Act's requirement that an employer, "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm" means you can't have a gun in your car while at work.
This debate recently hit the fan in Oklahoma where an Oklahoma federal court ruled that a state law barring employers from prohibiting weapons on company property was not valid because it was pre-empted by federal law. This ruling will likely go to the OK supreme court and the discussion will fuel the debate in other states as well.
You might be surprised to discover that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is not waving a "No Guns" banner in this debate. SHRM manager of government relations Bob Carragher states that SHRM is not in favor of any policy that bans guns in the workplace. "What we've always argued," says Carragher "and the judge has agreed, is that all employers have to abide by the OSH Act's general duty clause. . . But since the OSH Act does not have a weapons workplace standard, it is up to individual employers as to how to best meet the requirement of the general duty clause" (SHRM Workplace Law Library, 10/24/07).
It appears that HR professionals, employers, state governments, and the federal government are stuck at the first step of their problem solving process--they don't agree on the problem they're trying to solve. Most of us have worked for someone we occasionally wanted to strangle, maim, or otherwise harm. Would immediate access to a pistol in your car have changed the trajectory of your career during those times when you and your boss were at odds?
Yesterday a young man walked in to a Nebraska shopping mall and killed eight people before taking his own life. Does proximity to a firearm make it more likely that someone will use the gun in an act of violence?
What's the problem we're trying to solve and will either state or federal legislation fix it?
It looks like this debate is just getting started.