Friday, July 4, 2008

Disney v. the NRA

How's this for a bizarre political conflict: Disney vs. the NRA. The state of Florida just passed a law allowing gun owners who have a concealed-weapons permit to bring their guns to work, as long as they keep them in their cars. I'm not sure why gun owners feel this is a necessary law. Is bringing your gun to work a threatened Constitutional right? I'm having trouble seeing this. In my office, we just got an email reiterating our company's policy that guns are not allowed at work. At first, we thot it was a joke - isn't that obvious? Not, apparently, in Florida.

The Walt Disney Company, to its great credit, has been fighting this, along with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation. This is because most businesses do not want their employees carrying around guns in the workplace. This is because, on this very basic issue of employee safety, business owners are sane, rational people who understand that guns are dangerous. Nonetheless, the law passed. There is an exception for businesses that handle explosives. Yes, we do not want to combine guns and dynamite. At the last minute, that exception was expanded slightly, to property owned by companies that handle explosives. Disney falls under that because of its fireworks displays.

I can't wait to see how this plays out in the Republican party. Here you have two key constituents are loggerheads: businesspeople and gun owners. I'm not always a big fan of the Walt Disney company, but on this issue, they will win any PR battle without even trying. They don't want people bringing guns to Disney World. How hard is that to understand? What parent is going to object to that? Disney is on the side of its visitors, the NRA is on the side of people who feel so threatened that they feel a need to bring guns with them everywhere. Disney wins.

The press release from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation frame the issues:

“This law is unnecessary and a violation of the private property rights provided by the Constitution,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “We are taking this action to restore what 80 percent of Florida voters believe to be true—that a business owner should be able to decide if employees can or cannot bring guns on their property.”

“We have said it time and again: this is a deeply flawed solution in search of a problem,” said Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “We will reaffirm the fundamental right of every private property owner provided by the U.S. Constitution, the Florida Constitution and the Florida Statutes to decide if a firearm can be brought onto their property.”

Property rights vs. gun rights. Two basic tenets of Republican ideology, clashing badly. The irony is that one of the arguments the NRA makes is that guns are necessary to protect property. So how are they going to argue against the right of business owners to protect their rights to control their property?

The NRA also makes the argument that owning guns is important for self-defense. I can understand this argument as it applies to someone at home. But your car? Your place of work? How many employees of Disney World need a gun to protect themselves on the way to work at the Happiest Place on Earth? I have the feeling that the vast majority of Disney's employees completely agree with the company on this one.

For me, this is clearly a case of the NRA overreaching. Is this law really necessary? I like the quote from the retail guy - it's a solution in search of a problem. There is no problem that is being addressed. Why even bring it up? Shouldn't business owners have the freedom to make these kinds of decisions on their own? The NRA just wants to score points legislatively. This is about the egos of gun owners.

It's also a colossal waste of time and money. Businesses are going to spend money fighting something that they shouldn't be fighting, and for what? So a few people can bring guns to work and leave them in their cars?

I can't wait to see how Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert handle this. It's going to be like manna from heaven. You just cannot make this up.

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