ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
There's new legislation in Florida that could insight a courtroom showdown between the National Rifle Association and Mickey Mouse. The law allows gun owners with a valid permit to leave weapons in their locked cars while they're at work. The Disney empire says it's exempt and that's not sitting well with the NRA.
NPR's Greg Allen reports on the standoff.
GREG ALLEN: For 13 years, Edwin Sotomayor says he was a happy Disney employee. He worked as a security guard most recently at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando. But that was before he learned that in spite of the new law, Disney was still forbidding its employees to keep guns in their locked cars at work.
Mr. EDWIN SOTOMAYOR (Security Guard, Disney, Florida): So, one day I woke up and said, you know what, this is going to be a day that's going to change the rest of your life. And I think that my rights as an individual, my rights under the Constitution are more important than a job.
ALLEN: Sotomayor has a concealed weapons permit and says he carries a gun because he's worried about crime. He alerted the local media and the next day tested Disney's resolve by bringing his gun with him when he arrived at work. Disney's security personnel and county police were waiting. This being the YouTube age, he recorded the encounter on video.
Mr. SOTOMAYOR: (Unintelligible) I was greeted by a whole bunch of nice (unintelligible) members, including Orange County.
Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible) in your car, please?
Mr. SOTOMAYOR: Sure, I'll store it in the car. No problem.
ALLEN: Sotomayor was ultimately fired by Disney for violating the company's policy. A Disney spokesperson wouldn't talk on tape but said protecting the safety of cast members and guests is the company's top priority. Disney has opposed the measure, allowing employees to keep guns in their cars at work since it was first proposed three years ago.
When it finally passed this year and was signed into law by the governor, Disney told its employees the company's longstanding policy banning guns wouldn't change. That's because of a provision in the law exempting companies that have a federal permit to store or use explosives. Disney has a permit because of its nightly firework shows.
Ms. MARION HAMMER (NRA, Florida): It's a sham.
ALLEN: Marion Hammer is with the Florida NRA.
Ms. HAMMER: It's an excuse to thumb their nose at the Florida legislature, to kick dirt in their face and to say we think we're better than the law.
ALLEN: Disney isn't the only Florida company to claim an exemption. Its neighboring theme park, Universal, says the law doesn't apply to it because of a work-study program it offers to high school students. Schools are exempt under the law. And Georgia-Pacific, which operates a paper mill near Jacksonville, says it's exempt because of fuel oil deliveries it receives by barge.
Because of that, Georgia-Pacific says, it's subject to federal Homeland Security regulations, which prohibit guns. Even before the law went into effect, Florida businesses, represented by the State Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation, filed a challenge in Federal Court. Adam Babington is with the Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. ADAM BABINGTON (Lobbyist, Florida Chamber of Commerce): We've viewed it as a direct attack on our property rights on this ability of an employer to decide what goes on on our property and the ability to keep a safe workplace.
ALLEN: Business groups want, at the very least, for the law to be put on hold while details are clarified. Nine states have passed laws allowing employees to keep guns locked in their cars while at work, and many more are considering it.
In Oklahoma, a federal judge overturned that state's law last fall saying it violates federal OSHA guidelines requiring companies to maintain workplace safety. That case is on appeal.
While both sides make their legal arguments, real world events also are playing a role in the debate. Last month a worker in Kentucky, after arguing with his boss, retrieved a gun with his car. He then shot and killed five coworkers and himself. Kentucky is one of the states that recently adopted a law allowing employees to keep guns in their cars at work.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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