Sunday, October 09, 2005

Guns in Cars

There's another Pubbie split brewing, this time in Florida, featuring the Big Biz Pubbies vs. the Ordinary Joe Pubbies.

The dust-up is over the "guns-at-work" bill, which the National Rifle Association began pushing last month in Tallahassee to force all Florida businesses to allow firearms in the vehicles of any employee or visitor. Companies could keep policies banning guns from their buildings themselves but could no longer apply those policies to their parking lots.

The proposal, filed in the Senate by Republican Durell Peaden and in the House by Republican Dennis Baxley, won't be taken up until the spring. But it is already putting two of the GOP's traditionally strongest voting blocs -- business rights and gun rights -- on a potential collision course. Many businesses are either wary of or leaning against the proposal, including heavy-hitters such as Disney and local giants such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, CSX and Baptist Health System.

But the NRA is insistent. The group, which has donated nearly $1 million in Florida over the past decade, mostly to Republicans, is led in Tallahassee by former national President Marion Hammer. Hammer said the rights of gun owners should be intact in their vehicles, and the proposed law already gives businesses immunity from liability lawsuits in cases of workplace shootings.


"Companies have no more right to tell you you can't have a legal piece of property in your vehicle than to tell you you can't have an umbrella or a raincoat or a baseball bat," Hammer said. "Businesses say this is a matter of safety. You bet it is. It's our safety in being able to protect ourselves."

But some businesses and traditional GOP stalwarts say a company's private property right over its parking lot should take precedence.

"Your home is a slam dunk, but bridging that into the private property of an organization doesn't hold," said Mike Hightower, chairman of the Duval County Republican Party and lobbyist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. "I don't think people are going to want to cross that line."

In a telling sign of wariness, neither Gov. Jeb Bush, Senate President Tom Lee nor House Speaker Allan Bense are taking positions on the bill yet. Bush said he hasn't seen it and wouldn't say whether he supports the idea. Lee is still studying it, and Bense is simply sending it to House committees with no input.

Here in Wisconsin, where self-defense is illegal due to Jimbo Doyle's insane intransigence, we can only watch with some amusement.

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