Surely if you pass a bill or make something law, you have an obligation to make sure that the law is clear, concise and is not open for misinterpretation. This latest ruling from a federal judge shows that this law does not fall into any of these categories and is little more than a a bad joke, obviously constructed so that someone, somewhere could either a) grab a headline, b) grab some NRA money, or c) both of the above.
One would hope that given the ambiguity of the law, that Florida will be forced to review it’s concealed weapon’s permit policy so we can hope that the majority of guns are in the hands of sane and reasonable individuals … of course that would depend on who is judging them so … the mess continues.
TALLAHASSEE – A federal judge has upheld the gist of a new law giving employees the right to take their guns to work, as long as they have a concealed-weapons permit and keep them locked in their cars.
But U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle balked at a part of the law granting the same right to customers or visitors at shopping malls, restaurants or other businesses — raising the question of whether gun-carrying individuals could be penalized for stopping for coffee on their way to work.
Adam Babington, legislative counsel for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said the ruling potentially “causes more confusion than it solves” because it could prevent someone who carries a concealed weapon in the car from stopping at any business other than where he or she works.
“This essentially says you can take your gun to work and you can drive on the public streets, but you’re not entitled to take your gun anywhere else,” Babington said.
Gun-rights groups hailed the ruling as a “complete victory” — though they conceded it could spawn confusion.
“Customers would need to know when they pull into a Publix parking lot whether or not Publix has decided to prohibit customers from having the same rights as their employees,” said Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.
The so called “guns-at-work” law was the product of a three-year fight that pitted the NRA against the state’s business lobby in a battle between two basic constitutional concepts: the right to bear arms, and the business lobby’s assertion that private-property owners had the right to set conditions for anyone entering that property.
The Legislature’s ruling Republicans, caught between two of the party’s core interest-group supporters, finally passed a watered-down bill that allowed only employees with concealed-weapons permits to take their weapons to work, as long as they kept them locked in their cars. The law took effect July 1.
But companies including Walt Disney and Universal Orlando have since claimed they are exempt from the law, and the Chamber of Commerce and Florida Retail Federation went to court to block it.
In a 39-page ruling released late Monday, Judge Hinkle wrote that lawmakers had acted legally by restricting guns only to employees with concealed-carry permits.
But he said the “odd” way lawmakers had crafted the bill created two classes of businesses: those that had employees with concealed-carry permits, and those that did not. Under the law, if no employees have permits, the business would not have to allow guns on its property.
“A business’s obligation to comply with the statute . . . could turn not only on whether it has a traditional employee with a concealed-carry permit, but on whether a person who comes to fix the plumbing has a concealed-carry permit,” Hinkle wrote. “This could change minute-by-minute.”
Lawmakers have said they hadn’t meant to draw such a distinction, and Hammer said the language resulted from “inartful, last-minute drafting.”
Hinkle wrote that he was tempted to follow the advice of Attorney General Bill McCollum’s office and “rewrite a statute to avoid an absurd result.” But instead, he blocked enforcement of the consumer part of the law.
McCollum’s office, business groups and the NRA said Tuesday that they were reviewing the ruling but doubted they would appeal.
The attorney general is, however, still studying whether resorts and companies such as Georgia-Pacific can still ban weapons through a number of exemptions lawmakers added.
Late last month, Disney World asserted most of its facilities are exempt from the law, citing language that creates an exception for companies that manufacture, use, store or transport explosives. Most of Disney’s theme parks have nightly fireworks shows.
Disney fired a security guard earlier this month after he took a gun to work to protest the decision and wouldn’t cooperate with company investigators. He has since sued Disney.
Universal Orlando is claiming it doesn’t have to follow the law because it houses a work-study program staffed by Orange County Public Schools and therefore meets an exemption for schools. Central Florida’s third major theme park, SeaWorld Orlando, has said it supports the rights of employees and visitors to transport legal firearms in their cars.
Georgia-Pacific has claimed an exemption for its Palatka paper mill because it receives regular deliveries of fuel oil by barge, which the company says puts it under federal security regulations. Other exemptions in the state statute apply to nuclear facilities and hospitals.
Sen. Durell Peaden, a Crestview Republican who helped draft the law, said he expected the fight in Tallahassee and the courts to resume at some point.
“In all frankness, there will probably be a cooling-off process to see how it gets worked out,” he said. “But this will be an ongoing issue.”