Florida Chamber of Commerce sues to block employee gun law

Legal News Line May 6, 2008, 1:13pm

Bill McCollum

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - The Florida Chamber of Commerce is suing Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum to overturn a new state law that beginning July 1 would allow individuals to bring guns to work. The law, signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist last month, allows anyone with a concealed weapons permit to keep guns in their locked cars in the parking lot of any business. But allowing an employee to bring a gun to work goes against an existing system of Florida law that lets property owners decide for themselves whether guns are allowed on their property. The body law "has worked pretty well for 200 years and ought to be continued," Florida Chamber of Commerce spokesman Adam Babington told Legal Newsline Tuesday. Babington, who is also the Florida Chamber of Commerce Director of Coalitions, said the Chamber filed suit against McCollum on April 21 to overturn the law. The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District Federal Court in Tallahassee. "We're asking for the court to declare the new law unconstitutional and enjoin the attorney general from enforcing the new law," Babington said. The Florida Chamber of Commerce is not alone in opposing the new gun law. Local and regional business groups also opposed. St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce President John Long told LNL that it is "unfortunate" the new law was passed. "It is hard to really find someone in the business community that would support an employee bringing a gun to work," Long said. The consensus among Tampa Bay area business owners, he said, was that workers hadn't been put in a negative position by not bringing their gun to work because business owners think there is "no need for that to take place." Even a worker having a gun in his or her car in the employer's parking lot might constitute a threat to another employee, which could be a violation of OSHA law that requires employers to furnish a workplace free of hazard, harm or threat of harm, Babington said. State law can't contradict federal law, Babington said. He noted that an Oklahoma court had struck down Oklahoma's gun law, which was similar to Florida's new law, because it violated federal law. He also said that although the Chamber lawsuit mentions the threat of harm that trying to overturn the law was not necessarily driven by fear but because the new law "undermines existing property rights." In addition, Babington wants people to know that the Chamber doesn't have an issue with the right to bear arms. Some chamber members are businesses that sell firearms, he said. The next step for the Chamber is to file a motion for a temporary injunction, which the group hopes the court will grant to prevent the law from going into effect on July 1, Babington said. "We simply want to restore the law to its current status and let a property owner decide if a gun is allowed on their property," he said, adding that the group is looking at it from the standpoint that allowing the government to make those decisions is "excessive intrusion." From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Lin Young by e-mail at linyoung10@gmail.com.

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