Fla. guns at work law upheld by federal judge

/ Source: The Associated Press

Employees with concealed weapons permits can keep guns locked in their cars at work in Florida, but businesses are allowed to prohibit customers from bringing firearms on their property, a federal judge has ruled.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation, which challenged the state law that took effect July 1, huddled with their lawyers Tuesday to understand the split decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle and decide whether they should challenge it.

Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the retail federation, said he doesn't believe his organization will appeal.

"On balance, it's a pretty good decision," he said. "Are we happy about the employee thing? No. We'll keep working to change the Legislature's mind."

The chamber said it was reviewing both legal and legislative remedies.

"It adds another layer of confusion to the law," said Adam Babington, legal counsel for the Florida Chamber.

NRA applauds decision
However, Marion Hammer, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, called Monday's decision "a huge win for the people."

The NRA pushed for the law's passage in the last legislative session, citing the Second Amendment, which protects the rights of citizens to carry weapons.

"The problem has been corporate giants who think they can control everything their employees do or say or everything that goes on a piece of property," Hammer said. "They are employers, they are property owners. They are not emperors. For crying out loud."

Attorney General Bill McCollum's office does not plan to appeal, spokeswoman Sandi Copes said.

The business groups claimed the law puts employees and customers at risk, infringes on the rights of businesses and violates a federal occupational safety law.

Mark Wilson, the Florida Chamber president and CEO, called the law, "a big government solution looking for a problem," but commended Hinkle for deciding that customers cannot have guns at stores.

More court action to follow
More court action and appeals may come, but the judge suggested that attorneys confer on whether they want his preliminary injunction to stand or schedule another hearing in his Tallahassee courtroom to argue merits of the law.

Hammer was unsure if more challenges would come.

"I don't have a crystal ball. Everybody is still reading and rereading the order and figuring out where you go from here. For us this is a huge win," she said.

The Attorney General's Office is reviewing claims by several large corporations that contend they are exempt and can prohibit their employees from bringing weapons onto their property. They include Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.

The law exempts other places including schools, nuclear power plants and some government installations.