A new Indiana law that allows employees to bring guns to the workplace is a bad idea.
On July 12, in Albuquerque, NM, a man forced his way into the assembly plant where he once worked and opened fire with a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun, killing two people and wounding four others before killing himself.
The very next day, some 1,500 miles east, a similar scene was playing out at an assembly plant in Augusta, GA. This time, a woman was critically wounded before the shooter turned the gun on himself.
Violence in the workplace is a serious safety and health issue in this country. Homicide is the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, there were 11,613 workplace homicides in the United States between 1992 and 2006. That’s an average of 774 homicides annually.
Granted, the overwhelming majority of those fatalities occurred at such workplaces as liquor stores, gas stations and taxicabs. But that doesn’t mean violence can’t occur at more pedestrian locations, such as offices and assembly plants. Indeed, workplace shootings have become common enough in the U.S. Postal Service that the phrase “going postal” has entered our vernacular to describe murderous rage.
It’s against this backdrop that we are left puzzled by a new law in Indiana that took effect last month. The law allows workers to keep guns locked in their vehicles while parked on their employers’ property. Businesses will no longer be able to prohibit workers from keeping firearms in a trunk, glove compartment or otherwise out of sight in a locked vehicle.
The law’s supporters say gun owners have the right under the Second Amendment and the Indiana Constitution to bring guns to work. But opponents-including the Indiana Manufacturers’ Association and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce-fear that violence could easily erupt in emotional work situations if guns are close at hand. They believe businesses have a right to ban firearms in their parking lots and buildings.
We side with the latter. Enabling employees to take guns to work is a recipe for tragedy. The workplace is stressful enough without the added worry of knowing that one’s co-workers have ready access to firearms. In April, we noted that Indiana had just lost its status as the last state in the country that could boast more manufacturing jobs than government jobs. In light of such news, we wonder that the Indiana legislature didn’t have better bills to debate. It’s likely they did. It’s just as likely, however, that none of them could have coaxed campaign cash from the gun lobby.
Ironically, Indiana bans smoking in government workplaces. We can only conclude that Indiana would rather its workers be shot than to suffer a slow death from heart and lung disease. We suppose that shows some level of compassion. Nevertheless, the only guns we want in assemblers’ hands are those for tightening nuts and bolts.