Oklahoma Court Throws Out Law Allowing Guns in the Workplace

A federal court in Oklahoma ruled that employers should and will have the authority to ban workers from bringing guns into the workplace.

U.S. District Judge Terence Kern issued a 93-page injunction against a law that was passed in 1994, ruling that Oklahoma's forced entry law was in conflict with federal safety laws.

“The court concludes the amendments conflict with and are preempted by the [Occupational Safety and Health] OSH Act, which requires employers to abate hazards in their workplaces that could lead to death or serious bodily harm and which encourages employers to prevent gun-related workplace injuries,” Judge Kern wrote.

The federal lawsuit was brought by Conoco Phillips, Whirlpool and William Cos. (at different times) beginning in October 2004. The companies sought an injunction against an Oklahoma state law that barred employers from restricting firearms in the automobiles of workers in company parking lots. The companies said their compliance with the law would violate the OSH Act, intended to ensure a safe workplace.

“The judge made the right decision in this case,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “The safety of American workplaces should take precedence over allowing individuals to rapidly arm themselves with dangerous weapons.”

“We believe that similar laws in other states should also be repealed or thrown out in the courts, based on Judge Kern's clear findings in this case,” said Brian J. Siebel, a senior attorney at the Brady Center and a national expert on firearms and workplace safety.

NRA Strives to Pass Similar Laws in Other States

According to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the issue arose in 2002 in Oklahoma, when the Weyerhaeuser Corp. fired employees for having guns in personal vehicles on company property.

The Oklahoma Legislature responded – unanimously in the House and by a vote of 92-4 in the Senate – by prohibiting “any policy or rule” that barred “law-abiding people from transporting and storing firearms in a locked vehicle.”

After the lawsuit was filed, the NRA launched a high-profile boycott against Conoco Phillips, urging its members to reject Conoco gas stations. Gun owners rejected the NRA's boycott plea and Conoco officials pointed out that the company did not own the retail gas stations that sold its gasoline. Such stations were independent businesses that did not deserve to be boycotted, the company said.

The NRA then launched efforts in multiple states to pass similar laws to the Oklahoma law, and similar laws have since passed in Alaska, Minnesota, Kentucky and Kansas, but have been rejected in 13 other states. In Florida, Georgia and Virginia, similar bills have been roundly and harshly criticized even by lawmakers who generally side with the gun lobby.

TAGS: Archive OSHA
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