The Case Study in question, 8.4, “Have Gun, Will Travel,” discusses the right of employees to being guns to the workplace with them, and the legal issues surrounding that right, even if they leave the gun in their privately owned vehicle, in the company parking lot. In recent years, this issue has grown extremely controversial, as the readings from the textbook indicate. As Case Study 8.4 (2015) mentions, “the Second Amendment does not give gun owners a constitutionally protected right to carry their firearms.” However, there are many who would argue that every American citizen has the constitutional and moral right and obligation to defend themselves, even if that means using deadly force, against individuals who have no regard for the rights of others. When it comes to an employee bringing a gun to company-owned property, the legal and moral issues become very confusing, and this is likely the source of much of the controversy. Second Amendment rights to gun ownership by individuals still do not seem to have been firmly adjudicated by the Supreme Court, and the issue often comes down to State law, and the rights of the company owner versus the individual rights of the employee to protect themselves. In the case of a privately owned parking lot, however, the issue grows murkier. As the lot is private property, the owner has the legal and moral right to dictate the terms of the use of his or her lot. If the parking lot owner is vehemently anti-gun, and does not want anyone placing a loaded gun anywhere on his or her private property, that is their inarguable right. However, when a parking lot owner takes such an extreme stance, they must recognize that this includes a responsibility to ensure that the parking lot is safe, and that his or her customers should feel no need to carry a gun on their property. Ensuring that the parking lot is safe might take many forms, such as ensuring that the lot is well-lit at night, has a secured fence through which only paying customers and parking lot employees can get in and out of, and depending on the location of the lot, hiring armed security guards to ensure that trouble stays away.
As for a privately owned parking lot that is the property of a company who is not solely in the business of providing parking spaces, the moral and legal issues become even more complicated. If the employer is adamantly anti-gun, they are within their moral and legal rights to demand that their employees do not bring loaded guns onto company property during company time. As Lew and Kleiner (2002) have observed, “Employers have a right to prohibit firearms on their property. Any workers found to violate this policy should be terminated immediately. Although an employee may have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, employers must maintain the right to set the company policies and terms of employment.” Indeed, employers do have the legal and moral right to uphold their employees to certain standards of behavior. However, if the company is located in a state where there is a bona fide gun culture, and it is perfectly legal within the state to carry a loaded gun, and the employee in question has met all of the state’s legal requirements for carrying a loaded gun, the hypothetical “anti-gun” employer is now intentionally butting heads with state legislation and with the local culture of the area in which they are doing business.
With regards to the rights of employers to ban loaded firearms on company property, it is interesting to observe that there are no corresponding legal responsibilities to ensure that employees are safe from harm while at work. Two hypothetical scenarios may illustrate some problems that may arise from a stringent anti-gun policy. In the first hypothetical scenario, let us imagine that a company has a habitually unstable employee who has threatened several of their fellow employees with the possibility of gun violence. When these employees made their concerns known to management, they were met with indifference, because the unstable employee has a documented history of psychiatric illness, and the Human Resources department fears the possibility of a discrimination lawsuit from the unstable employee if they terminate his employment or single him or her out for disciplinary action due to things they said as a result of their diagnosed mental illness. However, the threatened coworkers do not feel so charitable toward their coworker, and honestly feel threatened by them. When they contact local law enforcement with their concerns, they are brushed off because the unstable employee has broken no laws. In this scenario, is it right to deny the threatened coworkers the ability to defend themselves against an unstable employee who has managed to successfully game the system?
In an alternate scenario, let us imagine a female employee who is in the process of divorcing a physically abusive husband. The soon-to-be ex-husband has threatened to come to the woman’s place of work and kill her. The female employee has done everything she can within the confines of the legal system, including obtaining a restraining order against her soon-to-be ex-husband, notifying the police of his threats, and notifying her employer of the problem, as well. However, restraining orders are rarely effective against an antisocial individual who has little regard for the law, the police can do very little about the situation as the man has broken no laws, and the employer’s hands are similarly tied by laws and regulations (Huemer, 2003). In this instance, the woman, who rightly fears for her life, has a moral right to bring a loaded gun onto the property, in my opinion. If she discharges the weapon for no good reason, she will have to deal with the legal consequences of her actions, but no employer should be given the ability to deny anyone the right to defend their lives with deadly force, if need be. One might argue that by bringing a loaded gun to work, the woman is jeopardizing the safety of her fellow employees, as the gun might accidentally discharge on company property, or the female employee might be an irresponsible gun owner, and leave it sitting at her unlocked desk for anyone walking by to handle. However, by simply denying everyone the right to carry a gun wholesale simply because of the foolish actions of a few is missing the point. Without honest discussion, we cannot implement responsible gun safety practices.
In the United States, the moral and legal right to carry a gun anywhere is a highly controversial matter, and one that is extraordinarily politicized. When it comes to the intersection of gun rights and employment law, these issues become extremely murky, as there are competing laws, as well as the competing rights of multiple individuals to consider. When it comes down to it, employers have the absolute right to dictate whether or not employees, or anyone else for that matter, can bring a loaded firearm onto private company property. However, with this right comes responsibility, and employers who refuse their employees to right to responsibly carry a firearm should be prepared to provide excellent security, no matter what the cost.
- Huemer, M. (2003). “Is there a right to own a gun?” Social Theory and Practice 24 (2), 297-324.
- Lew, P. & Kleiner, B.H. (2002). “Implications of concealed-gun laws for business.” Managerial Law 44 (1/2), 31-36.