Protection from legislators

Friday, March 23, 2012
Managing editor Murray Bishoff

If Mark Twain was right, and "no man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session," then the premise that less government is better government has some validity.

Apply that idea, then, to a bill being pushed in the Missouri House of Representatives that would protect gun owners as a group, a bill proposed by 116th District State Representative Wanda Brown, from Lincoln. Brown sees the main threat to gun owners as discrimination in employment.

According to published reports, Brown could cite no actual instances of discrimination. There were threats, such as a paper mill in Oklahoma that reportedly fired a dozen people who had guns in their vehicles. A meat packing operator in Kansas City said U.S. Department of Agriculture employees said they would not return if the owner continued to carry a gun. Then there's the questionnaire by the Obama administration in 2008 asking potential hires about their gun ownership.

It seems legislators feel compelled to think up and pass laws to justify their existence. This flies in the face of the idea of passing the fewest laws necessary as a guideline.

Years ago, I witnessed a discussion in the Illinois State Senate when a group of used car dealers asked legislators to make it illegal to have a car lot open on a Sunday, so they could stay home with their families.

No opposition was present, probably not even knowing about the bill. Senators were a little suspicious. One said he would vote for the request, but would be the first to vote for repeal if organized opposition surfaced.

The bill passed the Senate that day. Some questioned if laws were the proper way to impose rules on private business, but the lawmakers didn't seem too concerned.

This is a classic example of how too many laws, and really dumb ones at that, get on the books.

Missouri, in an effort to be a pro-business state, decades ago passed laws making this an at-will employment state. Any business can fire anyone without giving a reason.

The idea that Brown's bill will protect anyone's employment is a dream. Missouri's anti-employee posture does not change, and if a business wants to get rid of worker, it will. Even Missouri's standing laws protecting race, religion, sex, age and disability can barely function under the at-will edict.

The bigger question then becomes if a law is unnecessary, should it be passed? Is there much difference between Brown's bill and the used car dealers in Illinois?

Lawmakers ought to be driven by an overriding standard to protect the public, especially from dumb or bad laws. Otherwise Twain's axiom is proven over and over again.

We pride ourselves in sending common sense lawmakers from our local districts to Jefferson City. We hope they would see past this effort to pander to gun owners, who probably out-number non-gun owners in southwest Missouri, and keep their attentions focused on real issues in the state.