BY NICK MCWHERTER
Capital News Service
LANSING- Business owners could lose their right to restrict the possession of firearms on their private workplace property.
A recent house bill would make it legal to conceal a gun in your car at work, no matter what your boss says.
Such issues are typically the focus of gun rights and gun control groups, but this one has caught the attention of employers.
“On the face of it, it seems like a second amendment issue, a guns rights issue, but when you really get down to it, it is a bill that would take away employers rights,” said Delaney Newberry, director of human resource policy at the Michigan Manufacturers Association.
Michigan allows employers to enforce their own policies regarding the possession of firearms at the workplace. They can restrict the use and possession of firearms on their property, in their facilities and in their parking lots, Newberry said.
The legislation proposed by Rep. Paul Opsommer, R- DeWitt, would allow employees to bring their guns to work if they are licensed and registered with the state. They could keep them concealed in their trunk or glove box of their car.
Michigan hunters are currently hindered if their employer does not allow them to store their rifles in the trunk of their car, said Mike Thiede, vice president of Michigan Gun Owners.
“The biggest issue that we have is our vehicle is our personal property, and why should we not be able to store our firearms safely and securely within that personal property,” Thiede said. “There are many guys that will leave out of work to go to their deer stands, to do their deer hunting right after work, and according to company policy, they can’t do that.”
Some members of the Michigan Manufacturers Association think that it is ok for employees to bring guns to work, Newberry said. They are aware that their employees may hunt after work.
But others are opposed.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulates some Michigan businesses, such as nuclear facilities and steel plants, Newberry said. Security is the main priority for these workplaces.
“They’re key focus facilities, they are target facilities, and we know that,” Newberry said. “So they want to make sure that they are very secure.”
It’s an issue that encompasses more than the right to bear arms, she said.
“We see this as a property rights issue and we think that employers should be able to choose on a case-by-case basis, what best suits their workforce and their facilities,” Newberry said.
Some Michigan workers, such as outdoorsmen and women are concerned with gun rights in the state, said Kent Wood, legislative analysis manager at Michigan United Conservation Clubs. This bill could make it easier for Michigan hunters to get outdoors, Wood said.
“Usually the most optimum times to hunt are early in the morning or in the afternoon as you are getting towards dusk,” Wood said. “It is easiest to get out and hunt right before work, and maybe head to work right from the field, or head from work right out to the field afterward.”
However, some facilities could be compromised if firearms are allowed on the property.
“When you get a chance to tour a steel refinery, Dow Chemical or Palisades Nuclear Plant, you can see perhaps there are employers out there that would not want to have guns on their facility and they want to have it a lockdown and a secure area where they know exactly what is there and what is not there,” Newberry said.
The right to bear arms and employee property rights are both significant in this issue.
“We believe that employers have the right to choose the conditions under which you have your employment,” Newberry said. “Most of the facilities, when you sign up to work there; you acknowledge that this is a condition of your employment. And that should be a right of every employer in the state, and it should continue to be.”
Opsommer’s office did not return multiple requests for comment.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
BY NICK MCWHERTER