state representatives

From left, state Reps. Keith Greiner, Ryan Aument, Bryan Cutler and David Hickernell are co-sponsoring a bill which seeks to keep employers from preventing workers from stowing guns in their vehicles on company property.

State Rep. Bryan Cutler remembers the special plans he had to make to go hunting after work when he was an x-ray technician in Lancaster.

He either left his vehicle at a friend's house, parked off the hospital campus he was working at that day or allowed time to drive back home in southern Lancaster County before heading north to his camp in the mountains.

What wasn't an option was leaving his guns locked in his vehicle at work, because the three hospitals he worked at two decades ago — Lancaster General, Community and St. Joseph's — all had policies against employees keeping guns in their cars on hospital property.

"It seemed pretty ridiculous, quite frankly, Cutler said.

Now Cutler is cosponsor of a bill — House Bill 2243 — which would make it illegal for most employers to adopt policies forbidding workers from keeping guns locked in their vehicles in company garages or parking lots.

The exceptions would be at places like schools and postal complexes, where federal law outlaws guns.

"I don't think it's fair to ask individuals to check their Constitutional rights at the door," Cutler said.

But that's exactly what many companies in Lancaster County and across Pennsylvania do, he said.

Since 2000, Lancaster General Health has had a policy in place that prohibits explosives, ammunitions, fireworks, and weapons — including legally-possessed handguns and rifles — on any of its properties, according to company spokesperson Frieda Schmidt.

"The policy is in place because LG Health is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for our patients, visitors and staff," Schmidt said.

"If HB 2243 is passed, LG Health would revisit the policy."

Introduced in May by state Rep. Jeffrey Pyle of Armstrong County, HB 2243 would prohibit employers from keeping employees from storing guns in their vehicles at work, and would give those employees or their relatives the right to sue if they're injured because they couldn't defend themselves due to a company ban on guns.

They also would be given the right to sue if they were fired for violating a company ban.

"I'm a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights," said state Rep. Keith Greiner of Leola, who also co-sponsored HB 2243.

"I'm fearful when we start restricting our use of firearms, it's going to be the bad guys who will have them."

State Reps. David Hickernell of Elizabethtown and Ryan Aument of Landisville also co-sponsored the bill.

Federal law allows for the transportation of firearms inside personal vehicles anywhere in the U.S.

According to the National Rifle Association's website, federal law states, "Notwithstanding any state or local law, a person shall be entitled to transport a firearm from any place where he may lawfully possess and transport such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and transport such firearm if the firearm is unloaded and in the trunk.

"In vehicles without a trunk, the unloaded firearm shall be in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console."

HB 2243 states the purpose of the proposed law is "to reinforce and protect the right of each citizen to lawfully transport and store firearms within his private motor vehicle for lawful purposes in any place where the vehicle is otherwise permitted to be."

And that's the point, Cutler said.

"The federal law allows us to do this," he said. "An employer shouldn't be able to take that right away."

Lancaster County doesn't ban its employees from keeping guns in their vehicles, according to Commissioner Scott Martin.

In fact, the county makes available storage lockers for employees who don't want to leave their guns in their vehicles.

"They can come in, put their guns in the lockers at the beginning of the day, and then take them out at the end when they go home," Martin said.

Fulton Financial Corp. has a company-wide ban on employees bringing guns onto its properties in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland, according to Laura Wakeley, vice president for corporate communications.

She said the intent "is to keep weapons out of the workplace. We do not want employees to have weapons on our property."

Like Fulton Financial and Lancaster General, Lancaster Newspapers also bans its employees from having guns anywhere on its properties during work hours.

Lancaster Newspapers "may subject an employee to discipline up to and including dismissal" for "possessing firearms, explosives or dangerous weapons on newspaper time or property," the company's rules of conduct state.

Cutler said he has received complaints from at least a dozen county residents about local employers with similar bans. He declined to identify those companies.

"Unfortunately, I think this exists all over," he said.

Hickernell said several residents of his district have encouraged his support of the proposal.

"A number of my constituents have contacted me expressing support for this legislation, citing personal protection as well as hunting-related activities either prior to or after working hours," he said.

HB 2243 is currently sitting before the House Transportation Committee awaiting consideration.

"I think this is is a good starting point to have this discussion," Cutler said.

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P.J. Reilly is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer and outdoors columnist who covers municipal government. He can be reached at preilly@lnpnews.com or (717) 481-6138. You can also follow @PeeJayReilly on Twitter.