Senate panel passes NRA bill

Published April 11, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - The National Rifle Association is cruising.

A controversial bill that would make it illegal for businesses to keep employees from bringing guns to work and storing them in their vehicles passed another committee in the Senate on Tuesday.

The swiftness contrasts sharply with a protracted debate last year that split Republican lawmakers between two favorite interests - business and guns - and competing visions of constitutional rights.

"It's an issue whose time has come. People are sick and tired of being dictated to because they decide to become a customer or an employee," said NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer.

But the progress may be illusory. The House has yet to take up the bill.

Opponents, who say the right to bear arms does not trump the right to dictate policy over private property, are not taking chances.

A new group calling itself Floridians Against Workplace Violence went on the offensive Tuesday, announcing it was ready to air two television commercials.

"We don't allow guns in the Capitol building and in courtrooms, and that's a good thing," said Linda Vaughn, head of the group, which is backed by the powerful Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Retail Federation. "But something is dangerously wrong when elected officials demand greater safety in their workplace than they are willing to provide for all Florida workers."

The bill, innocuously titled the Individual Personal Private Property Protection Act of 2007, would bar employers from any policies limiting "legal" products from vehicles.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 in favor of the bill Tuesday. Three Democrats, including Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, were in opposition.