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Standing Guard: Protecting Workers Rights

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

STANDING GUARD

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA Executive Vice President

In the meantime, except for two union members, the fired employees and contract workers were still fired, without incomes. These were “model employees”—some with 20 and 30 unblemished years with the company.

eing fired is a traumatic, tragic experience, especially in an area where jobs are scarce. So, when 12 employees of a Weyerhaeuser pulp mill in rural Oklahoma were fired because they had legal firearms secured in their locked vehicles in a public-access company parking lot, the outrage among citizens of that state was palpable-so intense that the legislature moved to right the wrong by overwhelmingly passing a law in March 2004, making company parking lots a sanctuary from corporate gun bans.

What made the firings most egregious was that they came under an unannounced policy that reversed 37 years of a written agreement that permitted employees to keep their guns in locked cars.

The NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund gave support to the employees' legal efforts to get their jobs back. And we worked hard at the grassroots level to help Oklahomans enact their landmark laws to stop this corporate gun ban. We had hoped the new laws would serve as an affirmation of existing public policy, and provide reinstatement for the wronged employees.

Just like all other forms of gun control, this big-business gun control--this Brady Center private gun ban--only applies to the law abiding.

Those hopes were short-circuited when Weyerhaeuser, joined by other corporate giants, such as ConocoPhillips and Halliburton and supported by the state Chamber of Commerce, filed suit in federal court, successfully stopping enforcement of the new gun-owner protections. Much of their claims had to do with civil liability questions.

In the meantime, except for two union members, the fired employees and contract workers were still fired, without incomes. These were "model employees"-some with 20 and 30 unblemished years with the company.

With the courts moving at a snail's pace and ignoring existing and long-standing public policy on firearm ownership, the legislature again acted-with total grassroots support from NRA and Oklahoma gun-rights groups. Just weeks ago, legislation passed by a 90-5 margin in the House and 44-0 in the Oklahoma Senate, which strengthened the parking lot gun-ban sanctuary and immunized businesses from civil liability. It was signed into law by Gov. Brad Henry.

Whether the injustice done to the remaining 10 fired employees and contractors will be rectified is still an open question. They are still in court, creating a record that shows they never had a clue that a gun ban had replaced the 37-year permissive firearm policy.

All this injustice mirrors an attack plan cooked up by the Brady Campaign's legal arm-the Brady Center, which is pressing suits to kill the firearm industry. The Brady Center's nearly 100-page manifesto-"GUNS AND BUSINESS DON'T MIX, A GUIDE TO KEEPING YOUR BUSINESS GUN FREE"-is a how-to manual designed to ban and criminalize the otherwise lawful exercise of state right-to-carry laws and federal law protecting the transport of firearms. It's a vicious campaign that goes to the heart of the Oklahoma case, telling businesses to: "... prohibit concealed and other weapons, whether carried on a customer's or employee's person, brought into the company parking lot, or hidden in a vehicle brought on the company's premises. The policy should expressly state that despite the state's 'shall-issue' CCW law (Right-to-Carry), the company is allowed to prohibit concealed weapons on its property ... . Failure to abide by the terms of this policy may result in discipline up to and including termination."

Although the Brady gun-ban manual repeatedly raises the specter of civil liability owing to "workplace violence," everything it proposes is aimed only at peaceable employees and citizens on public grounds.

Under a section entitled "Enforcing a gun-free policy," the Brady Center tells business owners and managers, "A simple notice that persons carrying concealed weapons must leave their weapons outside will prevent law-abiding citizens from carrying firearms onto business property."

Law-abiding citizens? What about violent criminals?

Just like all other forms of gun control, this big-business gun control-this Brady Center private gun ban-only applies to the law abiding. We are the victims. And as this corporate trend spreads across the nation, you or someone you know could be next.

Winning in the Oklahoma legislature, which has spoken twice in overwhelming bipartisan votes, is extremely important. It shows the power of the people versus the power of big multi-national corporations. It shows the Second Amendment and Oklahoma's state constitution cannot be trumped by corporate power.

In the coming months, we will be carrying this fight to other states to assure that the protections guaranteed to Oklahoma gun owners against the Brady Center's corporate gun ban will apply everywhere. It's not only your constitutional rights the ban crowd is after-it's your job, your career and your livelihood.

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