Workplace homicides average about 500 a year in the U.S., according to studies by ASIS International Foundation, an Alexandria, Va.-based security professional association, and by the Justice Department. Shootings accounted for 80 percent of workplace homicides between 2005 and 2009, with most involving robberies and 21 percent stemming from employee disputes, according to the 2011 Justice report.
Guns-to-work legislation has failed in 12 states in the past two years, including Alabama, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, where lawmakers say they'll push the measures as legislatures convene next year.
Darrell Scott, a lobbyist with the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce in Columbia, said the bill is widely opposed by the businesses in his state because it limits their ability to control to set policy on their property.
In Tennessee, FedEx, Volkswagen and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry worked to defeat or modify the workplace gun law, opposing the NRA and the Tennessee Firearms Association, a group that promotes the right to bear arms.
"We believe that a property owner's right to provide a safe work environment trumps an individual's right to possess a firearm on the owner's property," said Maury Donahue, a spokeswoman for Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx, in an email.
Reid Albert, in charge of security for Volkswagen's Chattanooga operations, told lawmakers the measure could endanger 3,300 workers who park in company lots. Dismissals and parking lot arguments might both become more dangerous if guns are allowed in cars at the workplace, he said.
"Gun violence in the workplace is a real and ever present threat," he said in testimony earlier this year. "A law which prevents an employer from addressing this situation hinders my ability to protect the lives of all employees at Volkswagen, Chattanooga."
Richard Archie, a member of the Tennessee Firearms Association, said he pushed for the law to protect his 34-year-old daughter, a schoolteacher who commutes through dangerous parts of Jackson, Tenn.
House Republican leaders killed the bill in a procedural move after the NRA didn't agree to an opt-out provision or liability protection for property owners, said Maggart, who was the only one of those leaders with a primary challenger.
The NRA ran an advertising campaign against her, calling her an enemy of the Constitution who had killed gun rights behind closed doors. Billboards and pamphlets linked her with Democratic President Obama and special interests: "Bless her heart," said one. "Debra Maggart has lost her way."
"I couldn't overcome it," she said.