Is it proper for employers to discriminate against workers that are exercising a human right explicitly protected under the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions? What if that right happened to be the right to keep and bear arms? Two dozen Republicans and one Democrat who are worried about this issue introduced a bill in the Pennsylvania legislature earlier this year that would bar discrimination against employees in the Quaker State who legally carry a firearm.
House Bill 38 would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, to include “exercise of self defense rights” alongside other classes protected from employment discrimination by the law: race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, non-job related handicap or disability, or the use of a guide or support animal due to a disability.
Representative Rick Saccone, the bill’s primary sponsor, has posted several videos on YouTube talking about discrimination against gun owners. In a recent edition, he expresses concern about public housing bans related to firearms possession.
Another video posted in 2015 (apparently about an earlier incarnation of this bill) talks at length about other problems that gun owners face — such as the possibility of termination for having a firearm locked in the trunk of a car in a parking lot on company property.
Certainly, carrying in the workplace is an issue fraught with peril for gun owners. Many — particularly those who work for large corporations — are faced with the choice of either leaving the gun at home, and risk not having it when needing it, leaving in the car, and risk it being stolen (or, again, not having it when needed if the crisis happens inside the workplace,) or simply carrying anyway and risk being fired if the gun is noticed.
A statutory remedy for this is hardly a perfect solution, as there is the question of property rights (or, more correctly, whatever’s left of them). The current situation, however, is best described as “imperfect” as it is.
Needless to say, the very thought of this bill has caused a certain segment of the commentariat to flip out.
Shira Goodman, a gun control lobbyist, called the bill “mind-boggling” in an interview with Tabatha Fleming in the Penn Record.
“The Second Amendment right is not overly burdened here, and so why (gun carriers) need to be in a protected class is just a little bit mind-boggling,” Goodman told the Pennsylvania Record. “It’s very easy to get a gun here. We’re an open-carry state, except for Philadelphia. It’s not very hard to get a concealed carry license. We don’t have waiting periods. We don’t have registration and license.”
Of course, open carry is legal in the city of Philadelphia, but why should a lobbyist on the subject know that?
In response to Ms. Goodman, Brietbart’s AWR Hawkins dryly notes:
She did not address the fact that businesses, elementary schools, and universities around the country have witnessed horrendous attacks wherein the law-abiding citizens were sitting ducks; rendered defenseless by anti-gun employers and/or school administrators or boards of regents.
Does this bill have a shot at being enacted? Probably not. Even if it passed the legislature, it would still need the approval of Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, who would likely veto it. As one particularly breathless commentator noted, Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act does not provide coverage for lesbians or gays, either, and that makes it even harder for a Democrat Governor to sign on, I’d imagine.
Of more interest, though, is the fact that Representative Saccone announced in February that he would be a candidate for the Pennsylvania seat in the U.S. Senate currently held by Bob Casey, an erstwhile ally of gun owners who did a volte-face in 2013 after Sandy Hook. So this may be more of a way for Mr. Saccone to burnish his credentials as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. Making the gun controllers howl is probably just a side benefit for him.
Barrister’s note: The Penn Record, and several other sources state that the bill amends the “Pennsylvania Human Rights Act,” but the bill itself references the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and, despite a few mentions in news stories and even a few court pleadings that can be found online, there doesn’t seem to be a “Pennsylvania Human Rights Act.” If you’re an employment law type in the Commonwealth and know better, though, please hit the comments below.