Emerging Issues in Security

What Happens When the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Law Fully Passes?

The House recently passed H.R. 38, known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill. It has moved over to the Senate and awaits a vote there. It is likely to pass and President Donald Trump has said in the past that he would sign it. What will this mean for employers?

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With the passage of this legislation, citizens with a legitimately acquired concealed carry permit for a firearm will have similar reciprocity as with their driver’s licenses: the ability to carry a concealed firearm in and through any state. Some current permitholders drive completely around states—like New York or Illinois—where their permit is not recognized as valid.

H.R. 38 states the necessary qualifications: “This bill amends the federal criminal code to allow a qualified individual to carry a concealed handgun into or possess a concealed handgun in another state that allows individuals to carry concealed firearms. A qualified individual must (1) be eligible to possess, transport, or receive a firearm under federal law; (2) carry a valid photo identification document; and (3) carry a valid concealed carry permit issued by any state or be eligible to carry a concealed firearm in his or her state of residence. Additionally, the bill specifies that a qualified individual who lawfully carries or possesses a concealed handgun in another state (1) is not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone, and (2) may carry or possess the concealed handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.”

The passage of this law will certainly initiate a vigorous debate among employees with the legal ability for concealed carry to press their employers and their federal and state legislators to allow them to carry their firearms into their workplaces. The primary reason, these employees will suggest, is to defend themselves and their coworkers against the real possibility of an active shooter, mass attacker, or a terrorist event.

Employers counter by saying they don’t want their employees bringing guns into their facilities and have already created stringent policies prohibiting their possession on company grounds. Other employers have allowed employees to keep their weapons in their personal cars, even while parked on company property—including hunting rifles, as is popular in the South during hunting season.

The potential for legal liability for allowing employees to have firearms inside their buildings is limited only by the creativity of the plaintiffs’ attorneys: wrongful death claims, under- or overreactions by armed employees, accidental discharges, “cleaning accidents,” horseplay, no training requirements, and traumatic stress claims by surviving coworkers or wounded victims.  What about “course and scope of employment” issues? When would an employee be liable for acting or not acting, when he or she had access to a firearm?

If we were to consider a 50-state application of a “Bring Your Gun to Work” law, some universal must-haves must exist, including the following bare minimum responses and policies: an employee registration program; a locked storage room with limited access; armed security in the buildings and parking lots; a company-authorized firearms training and recertification program; formal workplace violence prevention training for all supervisors and employees; and better law enforcement partnerships.

The best approaches to workplace violence prevention don’t just involve guns. They include supportive management, humane treatment of employees, benevolent HR practices, training employees to evacuate safely or go to “safe rooms” in an active shooter emergency, fighting back with other weapons, and responding to early-warning signs, threats, and behaviors using a team problem-solving approach.