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Jewish World Review July 17, 2000 / 14 Tamuz, 5760

Michelle Malkin

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Consumer Reports

Can somebody say McStupid? -- YOU KNOW what really fries me about McDonald's? It has nothing to do with animal rights, styrofoam, corporate globalization, or any other left-wing cause. My beef has to do with how the restaurant chain handles life-and-death matters of employee safety.

The company has a nationwide policy forbidding employees from carrying firearms. No exceptions. When I asked Walt Riker, a McDonald's corporate spokesman based in Oak Brook, Ill., to spell out the rationale for the blanket ban, he refused to answer. "That's our policy," a tight-lipped Riker told me. "It speaks for itself." Discussing even the basic points of personnel security matters, Riker said, would "undermine employee safety."

But what could undermine employee safety more than prohibiting McDonald's workers in high-crime areas from protecting themselves? The company's ban on guns sends a message to criminals that they can go ahead and help themselves to more than a few free ketchup packets whenever they please.

This is not an imaginary scenario. Take the McDonald's franchise at 5301 East Freeway in northeast Houston. According to law enforcement officials and employees, the establishment was a frequent victim of hold-ups. Jane Magallan, whose sister-in-law, Connie Hernandez, is a long-time employee at the restaurant, noted in a phone interview with me this week that the franchise "is in a bad part of town." Workers there "were robbed with impunity," Harris County Prosecutor Steve Baldassano told me. Brazen thieves would rob the restaurant one day, and be back the next to dine, according to accounts gathered by Baldassano.

That all changed two weeks ago, when McDonald's maintenance worker Willis Lee put a stop to the constant harassment and violent victimization of his co-workers. When he saw a quartet of masked gunmen with rifles holding up a cashier at gunpoint, Lee pulled out his own gun, and shot and wounded two of the suspects, according to news reports. The gunmen had apparently robbed the restaurant three months before.

The empty suits at McDonald's headquarters would have Lee fired for violating their politically correct gun-control policies. But out in the real world, Lee is a hero. Teroy Vance, the restaurant owner, praised his employee in an interview with a local Houston TV station. In brave defiance of company policy, the franchise has so far refused to fire Lee. Magallan told me her family feels "blessed that Mr. Lee was there. My sister-in-law thought it was the end of her. The robbers held a gun up to her face. We're just thankful she's alive and well." Lee, she says, was a "guardian angel" – quick-thinking and courageous.

A local grand jury seems to have shared that opinion. On Tuesday, the panel sided with local law enforcement and decided not to file charges against Lee. Baldassano, the prosecutor, also sympathizes with Lee and his fellow McDonald's employees. He told me that one of Lee's co-workers present during the incident was pregnant: "What was he supposed to do? Just let her get robbed?"

Those are good questions to ask the out-of-touch McManagement at company headquarters. But their p.r. flacks are too busy stonewalling. Riker refused to address the company's unspoken – and stupidly arrogant -- assumption that its own employees can't be trusted to defend themselves with firearms.

That assumption flies in the face of national data. Though you wouldn't know it from the media coverage, or lack of it, people use guns defensively about five times more frequently than those who use them to commit crimes. John Lott, senior research scholar at Yale University Law School, found that even after controlling for the cyclical drop in crime nationwide, states with concealed handgun permit laws have seen murder rates drop by 8.5 percent, rape by 5 percent, and severe assault by 7 percent. No wonder national surveys of police show they support concealed handgun laws by 3-to-1.

But enough of the statistics. Those of us who purchase fast food often take the people who serve us for granted. Many are single moms, senior citizens, minorities, and other low-wage workers trying to make ends meet. McDonald's anti-gun policy is anti-safety and anti-worker. No one should be forced to risk their life for a Happy Meal.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate