NOTE: Use the following information to access this article: Site username: [email protected] Site password: Newslinks Must have cookies turned on for it to work. ------- Oft-repeated advice from veteran trial lawyers to the novice barrister: "If the facts aren't on your side, argue the law; if the law's not on your side, argue the facts." To that lawyer's proverb might be added a corollary â€” "if you have neither the law nor the facts on your side, then just scare the heck out of people." Gun opponents in Georgia and a number of other states are shamelessly employing fear as a substitute to facts and the law, in an effort to defeat legislation that would do nothing more than protect the right of a law-abiding citizen to maintain a firearm in his or her locked, private vehicle. With any piece of federal or state legislation, the best place to start acquainting oneself with the subject matter thereof is to read the bill itself, though critics often overlook this important first step. Thus it is with Senate Bill 43, a bill introduced in January by state Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) with co-sponsors that include Senate Majority Leader Eric Johnson (R-Savannah). The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in February by a 4-to-1 margin. It is neither drastic nor extreme. For example, the legislation applies only in very limited circumstances. It simply would prevent an employer from stopping any of its employees from keeping a lawful firearm in his or her locked vehicle while parked in an employee parking lot or garage that is open to the public. Parking lots not open to the public or those connected with a Defense Department contractor or the military, would not be covered by the legislation. Despite the extremely modest nature of the legislation, however, opponents such as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce are characterizing the measure as an all-out assault on private property rights in Georgia; one that will also virtually destroy the powers of Georgia's many employers. Other opponents, such as members of the Newnan-Peachtree City Area Employer Committee, are trying to convince legislators that enactment of SB 43 would turn employee parking lots into "dangerous" and "terribly unsafe" no-man's lands, akin to modern-day O.K. Corrals. One member of another fearful organization, the Georgia Employer Committee, has threatened to enlist the bureaucrats at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to assist in trying to defeat the legislation. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that OSHA has no jurisdiction over whether the employee of a private company possesses a firearm in their personal vehicle, the Constitution of the United States, the law and the facts relevant to employee parking lot safety, are all on the side of the proponents of SB 43. First, the Constitution. The Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to possess firearms. While states and the federal government have over the years placed certain limitations on the exercise of this Second Amendment right, there is no exception for "parking lots." The Amendment reflects a fundamental human right to protect oneself, if one so chooses, by possessing a firearm; many Georgia drivers do just that. Next, the law. Georgia law clearly recognizes the right of a person in this state to keep a firearm in their motor vehicle. Our state is hardly alone in this respect; every state allows transportation of firearms for lawful purposes in vehicles. Federal law explicitly protects the right of a person to transport a firearm in a vehicle across state lines. Georgia and almost every other state protect the right to possess firearms for self-defense. Should a private employer be allowed arbitrarily to trump such laws? Finally, the facts. Shootings in workplace parking lots are extremely rare, and gun crimes in the workplace are almost always committed by non-employees and usually in the commission of a robbery. The small percentage committed by current or former employees in almost every instance could not or would not have been prevented by a workplace restriction on firearms inside locked vehicles. Even if SB 43 becomes law, the sky is not going to fall in on Georgia employers seeking legitimately to maintain a safe workplace. The legislation affords no protection to anyone taking a firearm out of a vehicle and carrying it into the workplace; and in fact, it interferes not one bit with an employer's power to prevent an employee otherwise restricted from possessing a firearm or under disciplinary action from bringing a firearm onto the parking lot. Georgia employers would be well-served to quit worrying about the law-abiding employee who might have a hunting rifle or a handgun for self-defense locked in their car, and pay closer attention to the quality of employee they hire and to supporting good law enforcement in their communities. â€¢ Former congressman and U.S. attorney Bob Barr practices law in Atlanta. He is a board member of the National Rifle Association.