Court Rules Concealed Carry Law Violates Workplace Safety Laws

By Ken Hanson, Esq.

A three judge panel today ruled that Ohio's concealed carry law impermissibly violates several provisions of the state's employment laws.

In what is sure to be a controversial opinion, the court held that "a person's so-called right to self-defense cannot infringe upon the right of a person to be free from violence in their workplace. The evidence before us is clear – allowing handguns in the workplace violates the fundamental right of Ohioans to work their trade in a secure environment."

The case arose originally out of a complaint filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation.

"Ohio's laws are well-settled in this area. The workplace cannot create an atmosphere of hostility, and must be free from recognized hazards," said the court. "Plaintiff has clearly established that allowing persons to carry hidden, loaded guns creates an overtly hostile, and dangerous, work environment for him. Guns are clearly recognized hazards."

The complaints were filed by Bob Smith, described in court documents as a "consultant specializing in small business economic loss." A review of Mr. Smith's complaint reveals that he has been shot during three different armed robberies since 2004, which is believed to be an Ohio record. Smith's complaint describes in vivid detail the slow deterioration of his workplace environment:

I started back in 2001 while I was on probation for drug trafficking. No one would employ a drug addicted probationer, so I turned to self-employment. Man, it was a dream. Throw on a ski mask, stroll into a liquor store, pistol whip a few people and I was set financially for the month. I was happy and fulfilled.

Then that damn concealed carry law passed, and within months my co-workers and I noticed an immediate chilling of our work environment. Ohio attempted to accommodate our special workplace needs by designating many 'no-gun' areas and making the carry laws so absurd that no one wanted to carry. Even so, we noticed an immediate increase in workplace hostility.

The court ruled that these original workplace accommodations fell short, as evidenced by Mr. Smith being shot for the first time in 2005:

The record reveals that Mr. Smith was engaged in his ordinary, everyday work functions when he encountered a shop owner who was legally licensed and armed. When confronted with Mr. Smith's transaction ('give me all the cash before I blow your damn fool head off'), this merchant instead unreasonably and irrationally chose to draw his firearm and shoot Mr. Smith. That is the very definition of a hostile work environment."

"The court notes initially that had the state invested sufficient resources in building Mr. Smith's self-esteem, and focused on his substance abuse recovery versus just sticking him in prison for 30 days (for the 2001 trafficking case), Mr. Smith would never have been in this situation to begin with. Mr. Smith's addiction requires that he carry a substantial 'pimp wad' to finance his disability. Fault for this lies squarely with the state; the prison system failed Mr. Smith when he needed it most.

As noted in a Dayton Daily News editorial about Smith's 2005 shooting, Mr. Smith (was) the victim, a good person in the wrong place at the wrong time. He did not deserve to be shot.

The court noted that this 2005 incident, in isolation, is not enough to establish a pattern of hostility in the workplace. But in looking at the big picture, the pattern of hostility emerges clearly between 2005 and 2010.

As if the 2005 workplace setting was not hostile enough, Ohio then passed 'preemption' of firearm laws, stripping the ability of cities like Cleveland to reasonably regulate Mr. Smith's workplace safety. Then in late 2008 comes sweeping liberalization of the concealed carry laws. This easing of carry laws led directly to a record number of licenses issued in 2009.

Mr. Smith is now facing a veritable epidemic of workplace hostility. Today this court takes the first step in battling this epidemic, restoring reasonable restrictions on citizens in order to promote a safer workplace environment for Plaintiff.

"Too little, too late," laments Mr. Smith. "I mean, damn, I was shot by a 78 year-old great-grandmother over the Social Security check she just cashed. Do you have any idea what that does to someone's business reputation? My jail cred is full of fail, as I am now known as the 'bitch that got capped by Mimi.' At least now with universal healthcare I will be able to get medical treatment for these pre-existing gunshots and in the future should I get shot a fourth time."

Asked during a deposition what it was like to be shot, Mr. Smith replied, "It sucks. Bad."

In an amazing coincidence of spontaneous journalism that was in no way encouraged or organized by the Ohio Newspaper Association, newspapers across the state today issued nearly identical editorials praising the court's ruling. Representative of the editorials is this one from The Toledo Blade:

This is not the Wild West. Just because a person with a lengthy criminal record is suffering from severe meth withdrawal while pointing a cheap, loaded gun at your head does not mean there is a threat. These "criminals" are victimized for simply working their trade, and concealed carry licensees are creating an unreasonable risk of harm in the workplace by "defending" themselves. Despite nearly 100 lawful uses of deadly force by licensees to date, with no bystanders injured, the majority of Ohioans want merchants to submit to the violence and just give the victims the money and whatever else they are demanding.

"We know a majority of Ohioans feel this way because a Blade reporter once had to write a story on a self-defense case, and did not have a Brady issued press release he could just rearrange and run as 'news.' He conducted research by asking the three other people in the newsroom how they felt about self-defense. They all agreed that the merchants should submit without resistance."

Ken Hanson, a gun nut attorney, was contacted for his feedback on this court decision. Hanson said, "The really sad thing is that there is enough in this story that mirrors real life that readers are still trying to figure out if the story is true or an April Fools joke."

Ken Hanson is a gun rights attorney in Ohio, and a candidate for the National Rifle Association's (NRA) Board of Directors. He serves as the Legislative Chair for Buckeye Firearms Association. He is the attorney of record for Buckeye Firearms Foundation, which filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court cases. In 2008, the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) awarded him with its Defender of Justice Award. He is the author of The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws, a certified firearms instructor and holds a Type 01 Federal Firearms License.

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