Businesses covered in 'Make My Day' Law
A new state law gives civil and criminal immunity to business people and their employees who use deadly force in the face of life-threatening criminals.
But the law may not protect corporate owners from lawsuits, and at least one large local business is telling its employees to leave their guns at home anyway.
Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1439 into law Monday.
Gov. Mary Fallin: The governor signed a bill into law that allows business owners and employees to defend themselves using deadly force.
The extension of the state's "Make My Day" law includes business owners, managers and employees among those who are allowed to use deadly force against people who are illegally forcing their way into a business or are trying to do so. Previously, the law only covered people protecting their homes.
Though the bill includes business owners among those presumed to have acted in self-defense when deadly force is used under certain circumstances, the portion of the law that discusses civil and criminal immunity only refers to "a person who uses force."
The law never specifically addresses corporate owners of businesses where deadly force is used.
Rep. Steve Vaughn, R-Ponca City, author of the bill, said he thinks the law covers corporate owners, but it may take a court ruling to determine that.
"Here's the bottom line: Anybody can sue for anything," Vaughn said.
Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, a co-sponsor of the measure, said he considered the corporate issue, but wanted to start by protecting small-business owners.
"We felt like we would start with the small-business owners first," Ritze said. "It's primarily intended to protect the mom-and-pop owners."
Small businesses are most at risk of violent crimes and needed the protections, he said.
The law could be expanded to cover corporate owners in the future, if there is a need, he said.
Whether corporate owners are covered or not, the spokesman for Tulsa's dominant convenience store chain said its no-weapons policy isn't changing.
"Our employees are not allowed to bring any kind of weapons (to work), and that is not going to change," said Mike Thornbrugh, spokesman for QuikTrip.
The company believes that outstanding training of employees, limiting the amount of money kept in cash registers, using the best monitoring equipment available, and maintaining high-traffic, well-lit locations that attract police officers as customers are better deterrents to armed robberies than weapons, he said.
Armed robberies of QuikTrips are rare because criminals know the company's policies make such attempts a high-risk, low-reward situation, he said.
On the rare occasions that there are robberies, the company instructs its workers to comply with the robber's demands.
Resisting a robber to save a few dollars or a carton of cigarettes and risking lives makes no sense, he said.
Life "is where our value is, not on merchandise or money," he said.
On the other hand, Ken Statton, owner of M & M Manufacturing, said he was pleased with the governor's decision.
On at least two occasions he has faced potentially violent situations involving disgruntled former employees. He said he keeps a gun at his business.
Extending greater legal protections to business owners who have to act quickly to defend themselves and their employees makes sense, he said.
In robbery situations, Tulsa police Sgt. Dave Walker said the robber has the advantage of surprising his victim, leaving few opportunities to do anything about it.
If a worker sees a robber coming and has a chance to react, several issues need to be considered, he said.
"If you are prepared and trained and willing to kill somebody, then you now legally can take that type of action, but each business has to make that decision: Whether they want their employees to do that or not. I would say most of them are saying, 'No.' "
"One of the things you have to think about - before you put a gun on - is if you're going to pull it out in that situation, you have to be willing to use it," Walker said.
Vaughn said now that the law is in place, it is important for employers to have discussions with their employees about what to do in a life-threatening circumstance.
Some businesses may decide to train their employees in how and when to use weapons, and other companies may decide to instruct their workers not to resist robbers.
He compared it to standing in an airplane: There's no reason to consider jumping out of the airplane until after you have a parachute on.
'Make My Day' now includes workplace