Manufacturers group worries about bill to allow guns in parking lots

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislation which would allow workers to keep firearms locked in their vehicles while at their place of work, appears to have traction in the legislature, but it’s not winning the support of a large group of West Virginia employers.

The West Virginia Manufacturers Association is among the key opponents of House Bill 4187, the Business Liability Protection Act.

“They feel like allowing guns at work will force them to create tougher workplace violence prevention policies, stricter surveillance, and increased security by employers,” said Rebecca McPhail, President West Virginia Manufacturers Association. “It could blur lines in workplace bullying policies in which workers might decide to use guns as equalizers.”

McPhail even added the bill seemed like a solution in search of a problem, considering many of their employers already have a similar allowance, but she added others do not. There is also no wiggle room in the proposed law, according to McPhail, which is allowed in other states with similar legislation.

The bill is endorsed by the National Rifle Association and has a lot of support in both chambers. Supporters argue West Virginia has right to carry laws for both concealed and and open firearms, but it’s restricted to suggest that’s not the case in the parking lot at work–even with a firearm locked away securely. Supporters say it makes West Virginia an outlier, but McPhail said it’s not the kind of isolation most think.

“We’re turning West Virginia into an outlier by adopting the legislation as it stands today,” McPhail said. “Twenty-two other states have similar legislation. Everyone of those states have caveats which give employers some flexibility.”

There have been attempts to change the bill, but McPhail said none of the changes was significant enough to sway their members in support. Most opposed, according to McPhail, are chemical makers for various reasons.

“You’re talking about a chemical manufacturing facility with a lot of volatile processes and chemicals around the facility,” said McPhail. “It’s employee safety as well as community safety.”

McPhail said manufacturers often have restricted parking lots in sensitive areas and don’t want to be forced into allow firearms in any way into those areas.

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