Tennessee's new employee parking lot gun law was the right move

Tennessee legislators passed a new Second Amendment rights bill which was signed into law by the governor this week. It’s a rather unusual law, if only for the the specific scenarios which are covered. Referred to as the “Guns in Parking Lots” law, it’s a companion piece to a related bit of legislation which was enacted last year. The previous law decriminalized the storing of weapons in the automobiles of employees while parked on the employer’s property even if said employer had posted a rule forbidding weapons on the premises. But after review by the state Attorney General, it was noted that the employee could still be fired for violating the rule, even if they wouldn’t be prosecuted in court.

At the Daily Caller, frequent Hot Air contributor (and friend) Dustin Siggins has penned an editorial arguing that this new law goes too far. The basis for his argument is that the government has overstepped its bounds and prioritized the rights of employees over those of employers.

Unfortunately, all the law did was use government force to give priority to employees over employers.

Tennessee Republicans decided that the Second Amendment rights of employees have priority over the property rights of employers.

[T]his 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.

Dustin also argues that if an employee doesn’t like the company’s policy, that person can leave employment.

I have to disagree here, and I take issue with Dustin’s argument on a couple of points. I would first note that I am certainly sympathetic with the concept of giving employers wide latitude to conduct their business operations in a manner which best suits their needs. Within reason, the employer needs to have the ability to make and enforce rules that achieve the mission and produce a profit while providing employment and benefits for their workers. But as with all things in this life, there are limits.

Dustin’s argument that an employee can essentially leave if they don’t like it, while harsh sounding, is true in most cases. But we enter a new realm when the rules begin to infringe on the specific, constitutionally guaranteed rights of the workers. In this case we’re not talking about the right to carry inside the workplace. That’s been pretty well established as a decision that the employer can make. But limits have to be applied to how broadly the employer can regulate such activity if it reaches the point of placing an undue burden of the rights of the employees when they are no longer on the property.

This law recognizes the fact that most people have to get up and go to work each day, and while doing so they have the right to travel armed. But if they are to follow a rule which forbids safely storing weapons in their vehicle, what do they do with the gun while at work? Forcing them to rent a locker nearby (assuming such facilities are even an option) is a fairly serious hindrance. And leaving the car on the street rather than parking in the lot used by the rest of the employees is not only a significant inconvenience, but may not even be possible in some locations. This indeed seems to be an undue burden on their Second Amendment rights.

There is also the question of where the employer’s “property” ends, which Dustin correctly notes in his piece. True, the parking lot is the property of the employer, but does that make the employee’s automobile their property as well? You either allow employees to park in your parking lot or you don’t. What they have in their cars – assuming it’s legal – is really their business if it’s not being brought into the workplace and potentially affecting the owners and staff. In a parallel case, many employers with security concerns do not allow workers to bring their cell phones into the office because of the camera and audio recording capabilities of modern phones. But they pretty much universally allow the workers to lock them in their cars while at the office. And most importantly, that scenario applies to a device which isn’t even covered by your constitutional rights.

This law seems to me to have been a good compromise. The employer can bar carrying weapons in the workplace, but the employee’s car is not the workplace. And punishing them for such storage is an unreasonable burden on their constitutional rights.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023