Law would allow guns in vehicles at workNorth Dakota workers should be able to keep guns locked in their cars and trucks while at work, even if the employer doesn’t allow firearms on company property, advocates said Tuesday.
By: By Trevor Born, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — North Dakota workers should be able to keep guns locked in their cars and trucks while at work, even if the employer doesn’t allow firearms on company property, advocates said Tuesday.
The North Dakota Senate’s Industry, Business and Labor Committee reviewed a bill that says employers may not discipline a worker for having a legally owned gun in his or her vehicle.
Employees who own guns have a constitutional right to safely store it while they work, supporters of the measure said.
“This bill respects the ability for the right of property owners to say, ‘No guns on premises,’ and not allow them into their physical building. But the parking lot is a different deal,” said Darin Goens, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. “What private property interests do they have in micromanaging the contents of my trunk?”
The House approved the bill 82-12 last month. The Senate committee took no action on it Tuesday.
Business representatives said they should have the right to control what people bring on their private property and that allowing guns in their parking lots may be dangerous for employees and customers.
“This bill infringes on the rights of business owners to deny access to their property as they deem appropriate,” said Andy Peterson, the president of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.
Rep. Scot Kelsh, D-Fargo, said he introduced the legislation after a man in his district was told he couldn’t keep his gun locked in his car while he was at work.
The man is a shooting hobbyist who likes to drive to a Grand Forks gun range straight from work, and he didn’t want to violate company policy even though the gun was hidden, Kelsh said.
“I wanted this to apply to people who really want to do the right thing,” Kelsh said. “They could have the firearm stowed in the trunk of their car and the employer may or may not know about it. But rather than do that, these constituents asked me to change the law so they’re in compliance, because they want to do the right thing.”
The measure wouldn’t apply to schools, colleges, jails, or companies that work with explosives. Business representatives said they’d like exceptions for other companies where guns may be dangerous.
They said the legislation should not apply to domestic violence shelters, camps for oil field workers, and sites that handle hazardous waste. They said it should also let a business prevent an employee from keeping a gun if he or she poses a threat of violence.
The Chamber of Commerce, Xcel Energy, BNSF Railway Co. and the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown are among the bill’s opponents. The North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents oil companies and businesses that provide services to the industry, is also opposed to it.
“We have an obligation in our treatment facilities to make sure all the people are safe and secure,” said Alex Schweitzer, superintendent of the Jamestown state hospital. “We don’t believe having firearms anywhere on our grounds ensures us of this.”
Supporters said it’s easy for workers to hide a gun in their car if they wish. The bill would only help responsible gun owners who want to comply with the rules, they said.
“The bad guys are going to ignore the signs,” Goens said. “We’re talking about legislation that keeps the good guys honest. The guys that are shooters, hunters, the guys that carry concealed, that want to do the right thing and obey their company’s policy of not having guns in the facility, and need a place to store it.”
The bill is HB1438.