Connecticut Tragedy Prompts Renewed Debate over Guns in the Workplace


By Roy Maurer December 20, 2012

Gun control policy is back at the forefront of the national conversation after the shootings at the Newtown, Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 27 people dead, including 20 children. The tragedy has renewed the debate for new gun control laws—a familiar trend after mass shootings.

The U.S. Congress hasn’t addressed gun control recently, but the trend among states is to pass legislation allowing employees to bring guns to work, said Meagan Newman, Seyfarth Shaw labor and employment attorney based in the Chicago office.

Currently, legislatures in at least four states are considering measures, backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), that would allow workers in Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and Pennsylvania to keep the weapons locked and hidden in their cars in employee parking areas. Seventeen states have approved similar measures since 2003, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, based in San Francisco.

Employers have opposed bills that would make it legal for employees to bring guns to work. “Universally, employers have pushed hard against those laws because there is a perception, supported by the data, that guns in the workplace don’t necessarily lead to a safer workplace,” Newman told SHRM Online.

It’s too early to tell how the shootings in Newton, Conn., will affect the political momentum of gun control, Newman said.

“This could lead to an increased presence of guns, or it could lead to greater gun control,” she said, noting gun rights advocates’ calls for arming personnel on school campuses and workplaces.

White House, Congressional Leaders Push Gun Control

President Barack Obama announced Dec. 19, 2012, that his administration will press Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban and call for stricter background checks for people who seek to purchase weapons and high capacity clips.

Over the past few days, several lawmakers have promised to introduce or reintroduce gun control legislation.

Two days after the shootings, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that on the first day of the new Congress in January 2013, she plans to introduce a bill to ban assault weapons.

“I’m going to introduce it in the Senate, and the same bill will be introduced in the House, a bill to ban assault weapons,” she said. The bill would be a version of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, a law she co-authored. Congress allowed that ban to lapse in 2004, and a similar bill has not been introduced since.

Feinstein said her planned legislation would outlaw the high-capacity magazines and military-style assault rifles that have factored in many recent mass shootings, including the tragedy in Newtown.

People who own such weapons now would not be required to give them up, Feinstein said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

Related Article:

Connecticut School Shootings Focus Conversation on Workplace Violence Prevention, SHRM Online Safety & Security, December 2012

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