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Do Guns Create Unsafe Workplace?


A Nashville server has come up with an interesting strategy to try to reign in the proliferation of guns in public places. The server has filed a complaint with the state alleging that the mixture of guns and bars creates an unsafe work environment. The server, who remains anonymous, works at Jackson’s Bar and Bistro. The complaint alleges that it is a violation of Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations to allow permit holders to carry guns into places that serve alcohol, such as Jackson’s.

A Nashville judge ruled last year that a law allowing guns only in establishments that primarily sold food in addition to alcohol was unconstitutionally vague. In response, the General Assembly passed a new law allowing permit holders to carry into any establishment that serves alcohol. The new law allowing guns in establishments that serve alcohol provides restaurant owners the choice to post a sign prohibiting firearms, but Jackson’s elected not to do so.

Our local gun battle has been on the campuses of the two large state universities, University of Colorado (CU) and Colorado State University (CSU). CU banned guns in 1970 but allowed students to keep weapons in campus police lockers. After the Concealed Carry Act was passed in 2003, the CU regents asked then-Attorney General Ken Salazar whether the act applied to CU and he ruled it did not.

The CU ban went unchallenged until December 2008, when the lawsuit was filed in the wake of the fatal Virginia Tech shootings. The challenge to the ban went to the state appeals court, where it ruled that CU had violated the state’s Concealed Carry Act, which allows those in possession of a concealed-carry permit to carry a firearm in any public place in Colorado, except for K-12 schools and a few other federal and public buildings. The appeals court made its ruling in April and the University of Colorado Board of Regents voted to appeal a lower court decision that said the school violated state law with its campus ban of concealed weapons in June.

CSU passed a gun ban in February, but pulled back its gun ban, in response to the appeals court ruling in the CU case.

Perhaps the university professors will carry the day with an “unsafe work environment” argument. With more than 70 CU faculty members signing a letter requesting that the Regents pursue the case through the courts and maintain the gun ban on campus, there may be keen interest in the success of the Jackson Bar server’s claim.


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  1. DanH says:
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    If you can show where (anywhere) CCW holders commit any more crimes than the general population whether they’re armed or not you may have a case to keep CCW holders from bringing their firearms onto the property.

    Unfortunately for your position this is not the case and there is no increased danger in allowing CCW holders to carry.

    It’s really as simple as cost/benefit. There is no increase in cost and there is a slight benefit, if only a perceived one by those who carry.

  2. Andy says:
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    Of course, how the faculty can argue that defies crime statistics. Crime at CSU dropped after they allowed concealed carry. And there is no proof that any college campus that allows concealed carry is less safe.

    It boggles the mind that people believe their co-workers would kill them if given the chance. Or perhaps people who say these types of things are really projecting.

  3. John Hardin says:
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    Allowing responsible carry of a firearm for self defense in the workplace does not create an unsafe workplace. Banning responsible carry creates an unsafe work environment, because almost no employer will then go to the effort and expense of installing effective security measures (such as metal detectors and armed guards at all doors) that would deter someone who _is_ bent on committing mayhem from carrying a firearm into that workplace.

    Banning responsible carry for self defense merely creates a body of helpless victims in a predictable location at predictable times.

    If an employer prohibits their employees from carrying a firearm for self defense, they have taken responsibility for ensuring the _actual_ safety of their employees, and are implicitly accepting full liability should one of their employees be injured or killed in an act of criminal violence where the employee could reasonably have been expected to successfully defend themselves had they been armed.

    And no, an employment policy providing for termination of employment does _not_ provide actual safety, any more than a restraining order does.

    According to Department of Labor statistics, less than 10% of workplace shootings are committed by employees. Prohibiting responsible carry for self defense by employees is an attempt to reduce less than 10% of the problem that only worsens more than 90% of the problem.

  4. Steve Jones says:
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    Whirlpool Corporation attempted to bring OSHA into a lawsuit concerning guns in the workplace. Oklahoma had passed a law saying workers had the right to store handguns in vehicle parking lots owned by employers, and Whirlpool brought suit. OSHA declined any involvement in the legal matter, giving the reason there is no OSHA regulation saying a firearm makes the workplace unsafe.
    Good luck, whiney baby, with your OSHA complaint; you will need it!

  5. Brandon West says:
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    @John – based on your comment, it seems that you are implying the common workplace is unsafe from those willing to commit mayhem (and based on the context, must be common w/ the need for metal detectors & armed guards). I fail to see how banning responsible carry = an unsafe work environment. I would appreciate some further evidence to support the argument that my employer is irresponsible for not allowing employees to carry or by not having armed guards at the doors.

    Thanks -

  6. Andy says:
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    @Brandon, if you know exactly when and where crime will occur, you need to give up your day job and work for the police, because they still can’t predict it.

    I respect your right to be defenseless, but some of us do not share your wishes. And if an employer requires employees to be disarmed, they should take adequate measures to ensure the safety of employees. If they don’t, all they have done is to create disarmed victims.

  7. John Hardin says:
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    > based on your comment, it seems that you are
    > implying the common workplace is unsafe from
    > those willing to commit mayhem

    I am. Please note, I am referring to _actual_ safety, not a _feeling_ of safety.

    Many workplaces (such as bars) allow strangers to simply walk in off the street.

    In less-public workplaces, a card entry system conveys a feeling of security, but it is in reality not that secure against a deadly threat. Many employees do not pay attention to basic security practices (or simply do not care) and may allow people they do not recognize to enter behind them after they’ve unlocked the door using their card. The danger of this increases as the number of employees – and thus the number of strange faces normally seen in the workplace – increases. Or somebody leaves the door propped open for convenience, defeating the access control mechanisms entirely.

    Many workplace shootings are committed by estranged spouses or SOs. How many people like that could simply walk by the receptionist’s desk without question by saying “I’m Jack, Jill’s boyfriend, and I’m here to see her – can I just go on back to her desk” – especially if they’re carrying flowers?

    And this ignores the case of an assailant who uses brute force rather than subterfuge to gain entry, such as happened in the Seattle Jewish Federation shooting, where the assailant simply grabbed someone in the lobby and forced them at gunpoint to buzz him in.

    > I fail to see how banning responsible carry =
    > an unsafe work environment.

    Again, I am speaking about _actual_ safety, not _feelings_ of safety. And I will agree workplace shootings _are_ unusual and statistically rare events.

    As I stated in my first post, DoL statistics show that 90%+ of workplace shootings are committed by someone who is _not_ an employee, someone who has come in from the outside, someone who is not subject to employment policies. How does disarming the employees improve their safety in that situation?

    In the remaining less than 10% of workplace shootings, those committed by employees, how many were committed by employees with a valid concealed carry license? Almost none, I would wager; I wish there were firm statistics.

    Historically, CCW holders are far less likely to engage in crimes of any sort, much less crimes of violence, than is the population in general. Statistically speaking, you are at less risk from your co-workers who have CCW licenses than you are from your co-workers who do not.

    For those workplace shootings that were committed by an employee, does anyone seriously think that an employment policy providing for termination of employment for carrying a firearm will deter in the slightest way someone who is willing to commit murder (and most likely suicide as well)?

    The core point is this: if you are not able to act effectively in your own self defense, you are less safe than you would be if you _are_ able to act effectively in your own self defense. This holds true _anywhere_, not just in the workplace. And a firearm is the single most effective tool yet invented for self defense against a violent crime.

    > I would appreciate some further evidence to
    > support the argument that my employer is
    > irresponsible for not allowing employees to
    > carry or by not having armed guards at the
    > doors.

    An employer is irresponsible for not allowing employees to carry _and_ by not having armed guards (or other _effective_ security measures) at the doors.

    What evidence would you accept? As I am not a lawyer I cannot readily cite legal precedent; I can offer only an argument:

    By prohibiting responsible carry by employees, your employer has mandated that you will not be allowed to effectively defend yourself should someone attempt to commit a crime of violence upon you at the workplace. Physically confronting a gunman when you are not also armed is unlikely to be successful; the most you will likely be able to do is run, or hide. Depending on the physical layout of your workplace and the location of the gunman, you may not be able to run very far, and may have nowhere to hide.

    By explicitly abridging your natural right to defend yourself, they are taking responsibility for that defense. I suppose this is the part you object to.

    If they then do not take effective measures to _implement_ that defense, they are negligent.

    Employment policies that disarm employees will not prevent bad actors from taking firearms into the workplace and committing acts of violent crime against employees and patrons, yet they will prevent honest and responsible employees from being able to effectively defend themselves and others against those crimes. The net actual safety of the workplace is therefore reduced by such policies. The same argument can be made against policies that prohibit responsible carry by patrons of public establishments, such as bars.

    Note, however, that actually consuming alcohol to the point of impairment is _not_ “responsible carry”.