Starting Aug. 1, employers in Alabama are forbidden from prohibiting their employees from bringing their guns into workplace parking lots, so long as the firearm is out-of-site, the vehicle is locked and the gun owner has the proper permitting.
Further, an employer can’t punish an employee for possessing a firearm on that part of the employer’s premises. If the employer does punish a worker, the worker may have a right to sue in civil court. This effectively makes Alabama a so-called, “Bring Your Gun to Work” state, following in the footsteps of Tennessee which effected its law July 1.
Our Birmingham criminal defense lawyers can’t say for sure what the impact of this law will be. We know the intention, as expressed by the sponsors of SB286, also known as the “Guns in the Parking Lot Act,” is to allow workers a greater ability to defend themselves, not only inside the work building (although employers may require that weapons remain in vehicles) but also during long commute times.
Gov. Robert Bentley signed the law in May.
We do know that workplace violence in Alabama has been an issue in the past, perhaps most notably with the shooting that took place at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2010. In that case, a professor reportedly gunned down six of her colleagues, fatally wounding three of them. One of those was her boss.
The former biology professor, who had just prior to the rampage been denied tenure, later pleaded guilty to one count of capital murder involving two or more people and three counts of attempted murder. The plea deal will result in several life sentences, in exchange for sparing her the death penalty.
It’s difficult to say whether SB286 would have made any difference in a case like this had it been in place at the time of the shootings. The fact that it wasn’t in place didn’t stop this woman from bringing a gun on campus. But it’s also questionable whether allowing employees to have guns in locked vehicles would have resulted in someone being able to stop her sooner. Our suspicion is that it wouldn’t have, at least in this case.
However, we do suspect there may be more reports and possibly arrests for theft of firearms, simply by virtue of the fact that more people will have them present in their vehicles. It’s also possible that there could be an increase in the number of firearms-related arrests, as some may not completely understand the strict requirements of the law mandating a valid concealed weapons permit or, if the weapon is used for hunting, a valid hunting license and only during specific hunting season times. Also individuals with domestic violence orders won’t be allowed to bring their gun to work and neither will employees who have documented incidents at work of prior threats of physical injury or that resulted in actual physical injuries.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reported that in 2010, there were 506 workplace homicides (out of 4,547 total workplace fatalities that same year). Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Under the state’s new law, employers won’t be responsible for ensuring that workers who bring firearms to work are in fact in compliance with the law.
Anyone who is arrested in connection with any weapons or firearm-related offense in Birmingham should seek immediate legal counsel.