Williams Cos. Inc. back out of challenge to Oklahoma gun law

Wednesday, August 10th 2005, 11:16 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Williams Cos. Inc. has backed out of a federal lawsuit that challenges a new Oklahoma law that allows employees to keep firearms in their cars at work, leaving Houston-based ConocoPhillips as the primary plaintiff.

Whirlpool Corp. and The State Chamber had earlier opted out of the litigation. The law has been blocked pending the lawsuit.

In a written statement it released Tuesday, Williams Cos., said that continuing to pursue ``this isolated issue through the courts would require a disproportionately large dedication of company time and resources.

``We believe we can better serve our employees, shareholders and customers by directing those resources to more productive activities,'' the Tulsa-based natural gas company said in its release.

Williams Cos. spokesman Kelly Swan said the company's decision to drop out of the lawsuit was not in response to any public criticism.

Last week, the National Rifle Association called for a nationwide boycott of ConocoPhillips.

The legal complaint was filed on Oct. 27 against Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Gov. Brad Henry.

It challenged amendments to the Oklahoma Firearms Act and the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act that would prevent business owners from prohibiting guns inside locked vehicles on company property.

It alleged the new legislation was unconstitutional and would undermine its policies to protect its workers.

In its statement Tuesday, Williams Cos. said it ``remains fully committed to fostering a safe workplace'' and that the company has an ``expansive workplace safety and security program.''

It continued: ``We have determined that the company can preserve the overall effectiveness of our workplace safety and security policy through additional safeguards, as necessary.''

The statement concluded: ``Williams' policies are designed to conform to the laws in effect in the locations where we conduct business. To the extent that compliance with any law introduces any risk to workplace safety and security, Williams intends to take measures to mitigate that risk.''

The remaining parties in the lawsuit are waiting for U.S. District Judge Terence Kern to rule on the motions they have filed, which includes ConocoPhillips' request for a permanent injunction against the new law.