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Jul 02 2010

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ArcelorMittal throws down gauntlet on gun law

Editorial by Norm Heikens, IBJ.com

The first round in a likely legal shootout over Indiana’s new guns-at-work law was fired this week by ArcelorMittal, the Luxembourg–based steelmaking giant that operates mills in northwest Indiana.

Workers cannot bring guns to work despite the new law, which took effect July 1, the company warned in a letter to its employees, and any worker who brings a gun to work could be fired.

ArcelorMittal said federal law trumps state law, but in a statement to The Times of Munster, a company spokeswoman didn’t specify which law. However, ArcelorMittal might fall under an exemption granted under a maritime security law.

The law, which sailed through the General Assembly, allows leaving guns and ammunition in locked vehicles out of plain sight.

It’s hard not to imagine this conflict tumbling into the courts. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar said several companies are considering challenging the statute. Read IBJ’s story here.

Ice Miller labor attorney Paul Sinclair suspects a couple of years or more will pass before property-rights complaints from businesses reach an equilibrium with those of gun owners.

Lawsuits, or even complaints that could lead to suits, might be taken up the Legislature, Sinclair says. Or a court decision could force the General Assembly to tweak the statute. If an ArcelorMittal worker sues, a court decision would be anticipated within about 18 months, he predicts.

“It’s hard to tell,” he says. “The arguments haven’t had the opportunity to be filtered through, which ones make sense and which ones don’t.”

Ultimately, Sinclair adds, companies will want to know what they’re obligated to do to protect employees while meeting the law. They’ll also want to know why some types of businesses fall under the statute and others, such as day cares, do not.

As an aside, Indiana actually isn’t a huge gun state, if an assessment by The Daily Beast online site is any indication. The Hoosier state ranked 27th last year based on FBI background checks on gun purchases. There were 11,614 checks per 100,000 population.

That was nothing compared to top-ranked Kentucky’s 134,028 checks and even No. 2 Utah‘s 30,315. A caution The Daily Beast acknowledges: Not all states report the data consistently. Kentucky, for instance, does some checks on a monthly basis. So make your own guesses on the actual rate of gun ownership.

Any thoughts about guns and work?

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