U.S. News

Mixed ruling on controversial Florida gun law

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Florida employers cannot bar their employees from keeping guns locked in their cars at work but businesses can stop customers from keeping firearms in cars while shopping, a U.S. judge has ruled.

Both gun advocates and business groups claimed victory in a legal battle over guns and property rights following the ruling on Monday on a challenge to Florida’s so-called “take-your-guns-to-work” law, which took effect on July 1.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle upheld a provision of the controversial law that allows employees holding a state-issued concealed weapons permit to keep a gun locked in their vehicle in the parking lot.

Hinkle also said employers cannot fire or refused to hire an employee with a lawful gun permit.

“This is a victory for the people,” said Marion Hammer, president of United Sportsmen of Florida and former head of the National Rifle Association. “The business groups lost, pure and simple.”

But Hinkle upheld a request from retailers to prevent customers from locking firearms in their cars while shopping or visiting a private business.

“Judge Hinkle upheld a very narrow application of the statute that allows only employees who hold a state-issued concealed weapons permit to keep a gun locked in their vehicles in the parking,” said Rick McAllister, president of the Florida Retail Federation, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“Customers and other visitors remain subject to the business’s policies.”

The debate pitted the National Rifle Association and some employee unions against a coalition of business groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Federation, which had asked the judge to delay enforcement of the law.

Florida lawmakers passed the measure in April to allow most residents, including employees, customers and others invited to a business to keep a permitted gun locked in their car.

Supporters said the measure upheld the vision of the authors of the U.S. Constitution. But critics argued the law usurped the rights of business owners to determine what happens on their property and put workers and managers at risk from disgruntled employees.

Dozens of workplace shootings occur every year in the United States. Studies have shown that job sites where guns are permitted are more likely to suffer homicides than those where guns are banned.

Hinkle gave the parties until August 19 to appeal.

Editing by Jim Loney