The Brady Campaign asks why Starbucks allows customers to carry guns, but doesn’t allow employees. That’s a good question. I think they should allow their employees to carry if they are legally entitled to do so! But I have no plan to make that part of this debate. A restaurant can rule its employees have to wear a uniform if they want to, even though it would be absurd to demand the same thing of customers. There’s a difference between customers and employees. But you can blame a lot of this on lawyers.
The primary reason that businesses have weapons policies is CYA. Businesses are far less liable for the actions of their customers than they are for the actions of employees when on the job acting as agents of the corporation. This doesn’t have much specifically to do with guns, it’s just a general fact. Your company has far moreÂ liabilityÂ issues if you get into an accident driving a company car on company business than they would be if you hit someone on the way to work in your own vehicle. That doesn’t necessarily say anything about the danger of driving.Â It doesn’t have to make sense to get a jury award. Juries are sucker for a sympathetic client and a big, rich corporation. If that wasn’t the case, John Edwards never would have been rich enough to pay off a staffer to take the fall for a baby he sired with his mistress.
It comes down to this. If a pizza delivery guy pops an armed robber, we’d all completely agree that he was acting in self-defense, and that such an act would not be a misuse of firearms. But suppose the family of the armed robber decides to sue the pizza shop? What if the pizza shopÂ allowed their employee to be armed? Doesn’t that make the shop more liable? For a mom and pop shop, they probably value the lives of their employee (often a relative) more than they worry about being sued. They have insurance for that anyway. But for a large chain pizza joint, they have entire HR departments that fret and worry about how the company may get sued. They get blamed for stuff like that, especially if an HR policy, or lack of one, becomes an issue in a lawsuit. Corporate HR departments are risk averse and veryÂ eagerÂ to avoid blame for anything. Blame in a lawsuit is far worse than dealing with a dead employee, who quite honestly, has more of a case against the armed robber than they do against the employer. Corporate HR would also like to inform your family of the wonderful death benefit they provide for employees.
The fact is that the life of an employee means far less to a big corporation than than the possibility of a giant lawsuit, especially one that results in finger pointing at corporate headquarters. They might make a public face about being concerned about violence in the workplace, but the real concern is liability. Everyone knows that someone intent on violence isn’t going to suddenly remember the corporate policy and change his mind. That’s the elephant in the room. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is having a workplace violence policy that forbids employees from having effective means of self-defense shields the corporation from liability for an employee acting in self-defense. Dead employees are an acceptable sacrifice on that altar. You can blameÂ lawyers.