Mixed feelings among local businesses regarding state gun law
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
May 26, 2013 | 8610 views |  0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This sign on a local business prohibits patrons from carrying in a number of items, including firearms. (Photo by Courtney Davies/The Anniston Star)
This sign on a local business prohibits patrons from carrying in a number of items, including firearms. (Photo by Courtney Davies/The Anniston Star)
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A gun bill signed into law Wednesday has some local businesses conflicted over whether the legislation will make workplaces more safe or less.

The law Gov. Robert Bentley signed goes into effect Aug. 1 and lets Alabama employees leave firearms in their cars at work. The law also clarifies that residents can carry firearms openly in businesses that are open to the public unless those establishments clearly post a weapons ban. Some local businesses are worried the changes could raise danger at the workplace. Others, however, say safety can be maintained and that the individual's right of self-protection should be respected.

Wayne Reaves of Pell City, who owns nine Jack's restaurant franchises in the area, said he was concerned the law could make it easier for disgruntled employees to hurt co-workers.

"If something happens and someone gets agitated, before they'd have to drive home and get a gun ... that might give them time to cool off and rethink things," Reaves said. "However, now if a gun is in their car, it would take just 30 seconds for them to walk out the door, get it, then go back in."

Reaves said he had not decided whether he will post signs prohibiting customers from carrying guns into his restaurants.

"I don't know, just the connotation of it ... I'm going to have to see what other restaurants do," Reaves said.

Richard Simonton, president and CEO of AOD Federal Credit Union in Oxford, said AOD's branches have for years had signs stating weapons were prohibited inside. Simonton said businesses should have the right to control what goes on inside their buildings. However, individuals also have the right to protect themselves, he said.

"A gun in a personal car I see as something I would support," Simonton said. "I don't see any additional safety issue from it."

Simonton agreed with Reaves that allowing guns in vehicles at work could make it easier for a disgruntled employee to take out his or her frustration.

"But the right of the individual to protect himself should trump that concern," Simonton said.

Though the law eases some restrictions on where residents can take firearms, it keeps others firmly in place. For instance, firearms are still prohibited in law enforcement departments, prisons, mental hospitals or other government buildings, including the state Legislature.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who co-sponsored the gun bill, said the purpose of the law's provision for workers is to improve safety.

"A specific example is a woman or a man could be leaving or coming to work ... if there was a problem, they'd have some defense if they needed it," Marsh said.

In Marsh's view, safety is increased due to the law's provision allowing residents to carry firearms into public businesses.

"You've seen it where people come into a business and start shooting," Marsh said. "If someone else had a weapon, they could have stopped it."

Marsh dismissed the notion that allowing guns in cars at businesses might increase the risk of workplace shootings.

"Those concerns were raised and it's always a possibility, but if an employee is angry, they will bring a gun to work regardless," Marsh said.

Danny Shears, co-owner of Moore Printing Company in Anniston, said he was not sure what to think about the new law.

"A person has the right to protect themselves," Shears said. "But businesses where you have seven employees or 700, I don't know if guns in the workplace is a good idea."

Shears said he would have to think more about the law before he decided whether to ban weapons inside his business.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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