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First They Take Your Gun; Then Your Bible Says a Reactivating NRA

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Maybe it fears a President Obama. Maybe it feels enough time has elapsed since Robert Hawkins gunned down 13 Christmas shoppers at an Omaha mall. But the National Rifle Association is back on the legislative track.

It is reviving its campaign, derailed last year in Georgia by the Virginia Tech shootings, to prohibit businesses from forbidding employees from keeping licensed firearms in their cars while at work.

The Georgia "parking lot" bill is modeled after an Oklahoma law written after eight workers at a Weyerhaeuser plant in Valliant, OK were fired for guns in their vehicles in 2002. When ConocoPhillips which employs 3,000 in Oklahoma challenged the law--since struck down by federal courts but under appeal-- NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre vowed revenge.

"We're going to make ConocoPhillips the example of what happens when a corporation takes away your Second Amendment rights," he thundered in 2005 announcing a "boycott" that no one noticed including ConocoPhillips. Meanwhile the American Bar Association condemned the parking lot law in 2007. And Georgia legislators resisted NRA threats--a vote for adjournment would earn them an F they were told-- days after the Virginia Tech shootings last spring and didn't give the bill a Senate vote.

Of course most of the world goes to work, school and the store without the help of a firearm and enjoys the fact that others did the same.

But the NRA says property owners and municipalities who ban firearms violate its rights.

"You could have a constitutional right to have a firearm in your home and you could ride around with it in your car, but you couldn't stop anywhere. You could have every gas station, every hotel, every motel put off limits," says LaPierre. "So in effect, this [banned weapons on parking lots] is a wrecking ball for the Second Amendment. It's also a blueprint for totally eviscerating and nullifying right-to-carry legislation in 38 states in our country."

Last year a similar parking lot bill prohibiting even churches and hospitals from banning firearms was defeated by the Florida legislature.

"We're not against the Second Amendment, but guns are inappropriate in our workplaces and workplaces include parking lots," said Randy Miller of the Florida Retail Federation.

"Possession of firearms in the workplace or on company property is strictly prohibited," said Bruce Middlebrooks of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, a company which no doubt knows the costs of treating gun shot wounds.

Nor have the string of police shootings since then-- starting with Miami-Dade Police Officer Jose Somohano and three of his colleagues in September --helped the NRA cause in Florida.

So the NRA is assuring the Georgia business community that the parking lot law wouldn't mean they'd be liable for gun violence on their property--"unless the employer anticipated and failed to prevent an armed criminal act by a specific individual on the premises"--and even that their insurance costs would go down.

But Joe Fleming, senior vice president for government affairs at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce says the NRA's message to its members--"If you hunt or own a gun, you'll be fired!"--is fear mongering.

The NRA has already, "threatened all Georgia senators who fail to fall on bended knee with "F's" on the next NRA re-election scorecard," he writes in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Those senators who don't succumb to the NRA's bully-tactics, name-calling, temper tantrums, insults and lies will be subjected to election-year retaliation."

There are even critics within the ranks.

Bob Thornton, an NRA member and former liquor store owner actually heckled LaPierre at the parking lot law kick off news conference in Atlanta in January. "I really object to the government getting involved to say what's allowed on my property," said the Arnoldsville, Ga., resident, wearing a "Wayne Never Asked Me" tee shirt.

No wonder Chris Cox, NRA's chief lobbyist waxes "membership drive" in a January Atlanta Journal Constitution piece, trying to add to the list of those oppressed by parking lot bans.

"Workers are being fired for having guns locked in their cars, whether for personal protection, or to go hunting or target shooting after work," he writes. "Workers, like the single mother with an abusive ex, who comply with these rigid policies [and] are forced to decide between their paychecks and their safety." But before skeptics can submit that the single mother is probably more interested in seeing the abusive ex disarmed than herself armed, Cox finds a new group.

"And now, corporate lobbyists in Florida have defiantly told legislators that they can even ban Bibles from workers' cars."
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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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