Court Upholds Workers' Right To Guns In Cars

Thursday, February 19th 2009, 4:17 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A federal appeals court has ruled that Oklahoma's law protecting employees' rights to have guns in their locked vehicles at work is constitutional.  The law had been challenged by several companies and supported by gun rights advocates.

The debate over guns in vehicles at the workplace came to a head several years ago.

Jimmy Wyatt was one of a dozen employees fired by Weyerhauser in Valliant, Okla., after violating the company's zero-tolerance policy banning guns in vehicles at work.

"I had been out there 22 years," Wyatt said in February 2005. "I've been out there over half my life. That's all I know is that paper mill. That's all I ever knew."

After Wyatt and the other employees lost their jobs, Oklahoma passed a measure allowing employees to leave guns in their vehicles while they are at work.

But that that law was challenged by several companies including Conoco Phillips, and a 2007 judge's ruling prevented enforcement of the law.

An appeals court in Denver said Wednesday that judge's ruling was a mistake and that the law does not conflict with any federal OSHA standards.

"I'm delighted," Larry Johnson said. "It's what the NRA and people who work for large corporations have been asking for since that Weyerhauser case."

Johnson is an expert on gun rights and the attorney who represented Wyatt.

"All along, I've felt like that was depriving somebody of a right of self defense driving to and from work," Johnson said.

A Conoco Phillips spokesman says "the safety of our employees is a top priority of ConocoPhillips, and we are disappointed with the decision."

The company says it hasn't had time to determine what its next step will be.

Johnson believes the ruling will have national implications, and at least will prevent any more workers from losing their jobs over having a gun in the car.

"Now Weyerhauser, their little policy is going down the drain," Johnson said. "They can't enforce it."

The only exceptions to Oklahoma's law allowing people to have weapons in their cars are at federal facilities and schools and if a person is a convicted felon.