A popular American pulp and paper company has banned employees at its toilet paper plant from storing concealed weapons in their cars while on company property – a move that defies Florida gun law.
Georgia-Pacific cited a Homeland Security exemption from a statute authorizing workers with concealed-weapons permits to have guns locked in their cars because it says the plant handles large amounts of explosive fuel, the Miami Herald reported.
The Palatka, Fla., toilet paper mill's choice to ban concealed weapons has infuriated representatives of the National Rifle Association and highlighted the state legislature's troubles with creating unambiguous laws during its 60-day session.
The business lobby claims the gun-right law infringes on private property owners' rights. Ambiguous wording declares employers exempt from the law if carrying a concealed weapon is "prohibited pursuant to any federal law.''
The Georgia-Pacific plant, located south of Jacksonville, Fla., claims it is off the hook because U.S. Coast Guard's Maritime Security regulations mandate that the company must have a permit and a safety plan. Company spokesman Jeremy Alexander said the plant's rules ban firearms on the property because it ships about 700 gallons of fuel each day to operate.
''This is based on our Homeland Security requirements," he said. "It's not because of the products we make.''
According to the Herald, Georgia-Pacific would not provide copies of its documents for confidentiality reasons.
Chief NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer called the company policy "ridiculous."
''The Legislature never intended to exempt toilet paper," she said. "Georgia-Pacific is putting toilet paper ahead of the lives of its hardworking men and women. I'd guess 80 percent of its employees are hunters who go hunting after work.''
When the newspaper asked her if she believes lawmakers could have drafted a more transparent law, she replied, "They never have."
Hammer also criticized Disney World's latest claims that it's excused from abiding by the law's terms because it holds a federal explosives permit for its fireworks show.
Republican Rep. Greg Evers of Milton, a sponsor of the law, called the situation a ''Tallahassee compromise."
"For the business community, there have to be certain exemptions,'' he said, noting that such stipulations are meant to shield school children and prevent firearms from coming into contact with explosives.
Evers said he plans to see how the courts rule before the state legislature acts. While a decision is in a federal case involving the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation will be made soon, the Herald reports the Tallahassee judge said the legislature's description of employers is "stupid."
Democrat Rep. Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale said the law has many flaws, and he blamed Republicans for hastily passing it.
''The NRA has become a victim of its own success and it's looking for battles," Seiler said. "This was a solution in search of a problem. And the Legislature created a mess.''
Hat Tip: The Tigress