Senate panel to consider guns-in-parking-lots bill

DES MOINES — A bill that would override business policies that prevent employees from having guns in their vehicles in the company parking lot has cleared initial review in the Iowa Senate.

“The employee, I believe, has a fundamental right on their way to work…on their way home after work to have a weapon as a means of well-being and security,” says Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig who is the bill’s sponsor.

During a subcommittee hearing last week, Schultz said his bill wouldn’t affect businesses that do not allow employees to bring guns into the workplace, but he says leaving a gun in a locked, parked vehicle should be allowed. Rita Carter of the United Methodist Church Advocates said she’s concerned because the bill also applies to the employees and volunteers of non-profits.

“So what’s to prevent an employee from — even though they’ve lawfully locked their gun and ammunition in their car — from going out, getting it, coming back in and wreaking havoc?” she asked.

Tracey Kennedy, an Iowa chapter leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, also raised concerns.

“There are legitimate reasons employers choose not to have firearms being stored on the property, including the risk of guns being stolen from cars,” she said. “Research actually suggests that nearly one quarter of guns are taken from cars and other vehicles.”

The legislature’s website shows the Iowa Association of Business and Industry is opposed to the bill, while a number of other business groups are monitoring the legislation. According to Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, about two dozen states have similar “guns-at-work” laws.

“What we believe is that employers have rights, but employees and citizens have rights, including a right to an expectation of privacy in their vehicle, just as they do in their home,” Rogers told Radio Iowa, “and that the place to draw the line between those rights is at the locked door of a private vehicle.”

The bill is tentatively scheduled for debate in a Senate Committee this week. Policy bills like this one must be approved by a Senate or a House committee by the end of next week — or the bill is tabled for the year. That deadline does not apply to spending or tax-related bills.