Guns. The mere mention of the word conjures a visceral response in most minds immediately—fear, comfort, violence, safety. Whatever the association, there is no question that guns are a hot-button issue today. The issue of how to approach gun ownership and possession is also on the minds of many employers, particularly as it relates to concealed handguns. Part one of this blog will discuss the background of the “gun control” debate as it relates to businesses and analyzes the basic rights of employers regarding concealed handguns. Part two (coming shortly) will discuss creative employment handbook provisions that can be drafted to provide more specialized and detailed plans for handguns in the workplace.
Though the meaning and import of the Second Amendment has been and continues to be hotly debated, the current state of the law is clear: the Second Amendment (to both the United States Constitution and the Nebraska Constitution) provides an individual right to possess and carry weapons, which right cannot be infringed by either the state or federal government. See U.S. Const. amend. II; Neb. Const. art. I, sec. I; McDonald v. City of Chicago, Ill., 561 U.S. 742 (2010); District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 592 (2008). There are certain permissible limitations upon this right, such as restricting access to guns by felons and mentally ill persons or prohibiting them from school grounds, but the right to bear arms is well-established.
Notwithstanding the general right to own firearms, concealed handguns are subject to a few more strictures. Outside of certain exceptions for law enforcement and military personnel, no one may carry a concealed handgun in Nebraska without first obtaining a permit. After obtaining a concealed carry permit, the holder is authorized to carry a concealed handgun anywhere in Nebraska, except as specifically prohibited by the state or federal law, such as in government buildings, political functions, banks, colleges, churches, bars, etc. See Neb. Rev. Stat. § 69-2441(1)(a) (Reissue 2009) (provides a complete list of prohibited locations).
However, the law also recognizes the right of employers to prohibit permit holders from carrying concealed handguns on their premises. See id. at § 69-2441(1)(a)(14). In order to exercise this authority, employers must either post a conspicuous notice or directly inform permit-holders that concealed handguns are prohibited. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 69-2441(2). An employer may also prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns in employer-owned vehicles, but it may not prohibit employees from storing concealed handguns in personal vehicles in public parking areas. Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 69-2441(3) and (4).
In sum, it is up to employers as to whether their employees may carry concealed handguns at work. If there is no policy in place, and an employer is not covered in the list of prohibited places, then employees generally have the right to carry concealed handguns. Employers can utilize various strategies in crafting a gun policy to fit their individual circumstances, including provisions in employee handbooks and the like. Those issues again will be addressed in more detail in Part 2.