Earlier this week, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that would allow employees to bring guns to workplace parking lots as long as the weapons are kept in their vehicles — regardless of the policies of an employer.
According to Cade Cothren, the senior press person for the Tennessee House of Representatives, the law — which is meant to clarify a similar measure signed into law in 2013 — tries to balance employer property rights with the property and Second Amendment rights of employees.
Unfortunately, all the law did was use government force to give priority to employees over employers.
Here are a few of the arguments going around about this law:
Cothren explained to me that, “we recognize that there’s a fine balance between property rights and Second Amendment rights. [Republicans] agree that everyone should have as broad both property rights and Second Amendment rights as possible, but sometimes you do have to work to balance the two, and in a situation like this, that’s exactly what came into play.”
In other words, Tennessee Republicans decided that the Second Amendment rights of employees have priority over the property rights of employers.
Second, this violates the idea that government should, for the most part, let private actors handle their own issues. Like the Obama administration’s abortifacient, sterilization, and contraception mandate, however, the Tennessee government has unnecessarily decided to declare that employees have rights to employer property.
This is also reminiscent of recent attempts by homosexual militants and their allies to force business owners to participate in ceremonies they disagree with — again, using government mandates to interfere with the private, independent decisions of business owners.
Third, defenders of the law are using a very fine distinction for when property rights should be respected. According to Cade Cothren, the senior press person for the Tennessee House, the area for general parking is “a public parking lot for all employees.”
“If the employer chose to ban guns in the place of work, they certainly can do that,” said Cothren. “We would agree with that 100 percent. But because the parking lot itself is more of a public parking lot, and those vehicles are the personal property of that driver, it makes in that case to allow these guns to be brought on to the parking lot without fear” of consequences from an employer.
Cothren’s point, however fails to acknowledge that the location where work is taking place is also “for all employees” — so what’s to stop the legislature from forcing employers to allow weapons at employee desks?
As with most times that government steps in where it shouldn’t, Haslam and the GOP legislature do have a couple of points in their favor. For example, while I fail to see a distinction between the parking lot owned by an employer and the building one works in that is owned by an employer, it is also arguable that people are not “on the clock” when they are parking to come to work, and thus the employer ought not to have sway over what happens on the way in.
Another partially solid point is the idea that a car is the property of the employee, and is autonomous of the employer — in the same way an officer has to ask to search your car, no employer would have the right to search one’s car to try and find a gun brought on the property against the rules.
However, both of these points fail the “reasonable government intervention” test. Simply put, if an employee doesn’t like the company’s policy, that person can leave employment. Furthermore, under the principles of liberty, a human being is the most autonomous thing on the planet. If a car is autonomous when it comes to holding a weapon, shouldn’t a person be even more autonomous — and, thus, weapons should be allowed anywhere, at any time, while at work.
For the record, I don’t necessarily agree with an employer banning guns on the job, or with an employee being fired for having such a weapon on the work campus. However, my opinion is irrelevant, as is that of Cothren, Haslam, and anyone else not directly involved in the negotiations between employees or employers.
The real issue is the principle of liberty. A business owner should have the liberty to serve whomever he or she wishes, and a customer can take it, leave it, or boycott it. Likewise, should my employer not allow Bibles on campus, I — an orthodox Catholic — can either accept that policy, negotiate to change it, or work elsewhere.
As is too common at all levels of government in the United States, the Republican political leadership of Tennessee has overstepped its bounds, and — like the Obama administration and homosexual activists — is using the power of government to give preference when there should be none.