Paul Hampton

PAUL HAMPTON: A day without gun legislation is a day lawmakers aren't in session

Paul Hampton
Paul Hampton SUN HERALD

I once worked for a fellow who had what I thought was a strange interpretation of federal labor laws. Those laws that were displayed, by federal mandate, on the wall of the back shop of his newspaper.

At first that chart seemed a little complicated. How little I knew.

Pointing to the section on overtime, he asked if I knew what that meant. "Sure," I assured him, "if I work more than 40 hours a week, you have to pay me at the overtime rate of one-and-a-half times my normal hourly rate."

"No," he assured me. "That means if you put more than 40 hours on your time card, you're fired."

And he left me there to contemplate the universe and all its cruelty. I eventually came around to his way of thinking: It's my newspaper and the gumment isn't going to tell me how to run it. I didn't agree with it, but I did like the job, which swayed me to abide by his take on the way things should be.

Which leads me to your Mississippi Legislature, which has reached the point in the session where you can't swing a cat (a metaphorical feline, to be sure) without smacking it into a dumb piece of legislation.

Take House Bill 790, which among other things is: AN ACT TO PROHIBIT A PUBLIC EMPLOYER FROM PROHIBITING AN EMPLOYEE WITH A FIREARM PERMIT AND TRAINING ENDORSEMENT FROM CARRYING A CONCEALED PISTOL OR REVOLVER ON THE EMPLOYER'S PROPERTY.

"No public employer of this state or political subdivision thereof may adopt or establish a policy prohibiting a state employee under their employ from lawfully carrying a concealed pistol or revolver on their person on any property or in any building under their control, if such employee has a valid license issued under 45-9-101 with a training endorsement on it as provided by Section 97-37-7."

These folks worry me. Not just because they seem to want guns everywhere, but also because every time they tweak the gun laws the genie gets out of the bottle. For example, the great gun law clarifications for 2013-15.

Should 490 become law (stranger things have happened) it won't be long before some "private" employee wonders why "public" employees have the mostest gun rights.

Then we'd be back where this started with some employer explaining to some wise guy the employer's singular interpretation of the gun laws: That means if you bring a gun to work, you're fired.

I know for a fact the Sun Herald prohibits employees from packing heat. And we can't have a bottle of cheap vodka in our desk drawers, either. Feel free to mourn the demise of the good old days when newsrooms were as hazy as pool halls.

And, after almost 27 years of working in this building, there has not been a single moment when I thought, "Dang, I sure wish I had a .45 auto tucked into my waistband."

I have no problem with folks who own guns. The idea that there can be no place where you can get away from guns is a different matter.

I don't want to work in an office where I dive under my desk every time someone slams a dictionary shut.

I'm not eating at a restaurant that allows guns. I'm not shopping in a store that allows folks to walk around packing guns. Darkened theaters with armed moviegoers? I'll wait for the DVD.

I'm sure Randy Rushing, a former police officer who's retired from the Air National Guard, meant well when he filed the bill. But I have this strange notion that the unarmed should have rights, too.

Don't get me wrong. Police with guns, fine. No problem with armed military, either.

If you like your guns, keep your guns -- at home, or in your car, or in the woods.

If you're scared of your work surroundings, ask the boss to hire guards.

Contact Paul Hampton, politics editor for the Sun Herald at 896-2330 or jphampton@sunheald.com.

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