Texas businesses have to wrestle with the laws regarding the carrying of handguns by employees and customers in their workplaces. I’m amazed at how many businesses I counsel who haven’t even thought about the issue in a state where there are millions of guns. I’ve written about this before (here and here), but there is still confusion about a private business’s rights and responsibilities regarding guns in Texas.
As of January 1, 2016, Texas allowed the more than 825,000 residents of the state who are licensed to carry a handgun to openly display the gun in a shoulder or hip holster. Texans may also choose to conceal the handgun and carry it with them on their bodies or in bags or purses. Texas also has reciprocity agreements to allow visitors licensed in many other states to carry guns here.
The state has only banned handguns completely in the following workplaces:
- bars or restaurants earning more than 51% of their revenue from alcohol sales (they’ll have a sign up stating that fact),
- correctional facilities,
- high school, collegiate and professional sporting events,
- school grounds and school buses,
- polling places,
- courtrooms and court offices,
- racetracks, and
- secure areas of airports.
It is also illegal under federal law to carry handguns in federal governmental buildings, such as post offices, federal courthouses, the IRS office, Social Security office, etc.
Hospitals, nursing homes, amusement parks, churches and private businesses like yours can prohibit the carrying of pistols onto the premises by employees and/or visitors, but you have do this proactively. Texas law does not make it illegal to carry a handgun into these premises unless the handgun owner has been notified that he/she cannot carry at that place.
Even without hanging the required signs, employers can put a written policy in their employee manual prohibiting employees from bringing handguns into the workplace. Should you do this? Separating out the politics of that question, it depends on
- your beliefs about guns in general,
- how comfortable your employees are being around gun-toting coworkers,
- whether you believe your business is located in a safe area of town,
- whether your employees face real dangers in their job that a handgun could minimize,
- whether you have other ways to keep your employees secure (such as evacuation drills, good lighting, security guards, secured entrances, alarms, etc.)
- whether your employees are well-trained in the safety and use of a handgun (the required 4-hour Texas licensing course is not adequate for this purpose),
- whether you want to face disciplining and/or firing a volatile employee wearing a sidearm,
- whether you are covered by special insurance for handgun liability if there is an accidental discharge of a weapon (your general liability policy probably won’t cover it),
- whether you are prepared for the lawsuits that may follow a shooting (there is no immunity in the open carry statute for an employer when an employee hurts someone with his weapon), and
- how your customers will react to seeing your employees armed.
If you can’t decide, have a conversation with your employees to determine the best option for your business and do some objective research for yourself about whether the scenario of a “good guy with a gun” protecting people in your workplace is a real possibility or a myth.
Once you have decided whether to allow your employees to carry handguns and have adopted a written policy explaining the employee rule, the next question is whether to prohibit customers, vendors and other visitors to your workplace from carrying any kind of handgun on your private property. Continue reading Texas Businesses Wrestle with Presence of Handguns