published Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Gun bills draw opposition from Volkswagen in Tennessee Senate committee

NASHVILLE — Volkswagen Chattanooga’s security chief today told senators the company is “very concerned” with National Rifle Association-drafted legislation that lets gun owners store guns in their locked vehicles on employers’ parking lot despite companies’ wishes.

VW’s general manager of security, Reid Albert, told Senate Commerce Committee members that the two bills “would take away our right to control our property and interferes with our ability to take necessary actions to ensure the safety of all our employees.”

He said disagreements among VW employees have “already erupted in the parking lots.”

The presence of firearms increases the potential for gun violence, creating potential problems in emotional situations such as worker dismissal, Albert said.

“Gun violence in the work place is a real and ever-present threat,” Albert said. “A law which prevents an employer from addressing this situation hinders my ability to protect the lives of all employees at Volkswagen Chattanooga.”

Albert and representatives of some of Tennessee’s biggest employers, including Federal Express, are objecting to two bills dealing with guns on parking lots. Collectively, they said, the companies employ more than 1 million people.

The bill that came up in Commerce gives gun owners the right to sue and collect monetary awards if a business or public agency prohibits anyone — whether an employee or not — from keeping guns in their locked vehicles parked on owners’ property.

It also prevents employers from asking job applicants or employees whether own, transport or keep guns in their vehicles.

Committee members delayed action until next week.

The other bill, later heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee, prohibits businesses or employers — private or public — from establishing or enforcing rules banning storage of guns in vehicles.

Action on that bill was also delayed until next week. Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport, is sponsor of both measures.

Second Amendment advocates say their “Employee Safe Commute” legislation is necessary to protect gun owners from robbery and violence.

During the Senate Judiciary Committee debate, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, grilled Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Chairman William Ozier, an employment lawyer, about how far property rights extend.

“Can you say you can’t come on my property with pink tennis shoes?” Bell asked.

They can, Ozier said, noting that people who don’t like that “can choose to work for a different employer.”

Bell, a social conservative, asked whether an employer can also ban someone from storing a Bible in their vehicle.

Ozier said laws prohibit employers from imposing their religion on employees, noting some evangelical employers have gotten into trouble for forced prayer meetings in the work place.

As for banning Bibles, Ozier, who has been practicing employment law for 40 years, said, “I’ve never heard of an employer who had such a rule.”

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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