In 2006, NRA strongly supported the passage of a law in Mississippi that upholds the Magnolia State’s well-established public policy of protecting the right of responsible, law-abiding persons to keep and bear arms for self-defense. The law states that, subject to narrow exceptions, “a public or private employer may not establish, maintain, or enforce any policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting a person from transporting or storing a firearm in a locked vehicle in any … designated parking area.” On Thursday, all nine Mississippi Supreme Court justices unanimously held that the law provides an employee who complies with its terms a right of action for unlawful termination.
As in other states, many employees in Mississippi commute long distances to work, work irregular hours, or wish to take advantage of hunting or other sporting opportunities before or after work. Those lawfully transporting firearms in their personal vehicles for self-defense or other lawful purposes could be effectively prevented from doing so, however, by employer policies that seek to control what lawful items employees possess in their cars.
For example, a female employee who works the second shift at a hospital could not carry a handgun for personal protection during her late night 40 mile drive home if her employer could fire her for having it in her car. Likewise, an employee who wished to spend the morning before his shift in a duck blind near his place of work would not be able to do so if simply having his unloaded shotgun locked in his car’s trunk were cause for termination.
It may seem like employers and employees could reasonably work out these arrangements, and historically they did. But beginning with a mass firing at an Oklahoma timber company in 2004 over firearms employees kept in their vehicles, employers nationwide increasingly began to crack down on firearms stored in the locked trunks, glove compartments, or toolboxes of cars and trucks parked in employee lots. And because of the strong tradition of “employment at will” in American law – meaning employers generally can fire employees for any or no reason, as they see fit – the employees usually had no recourse.