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TORT REPORT: What employers need to know about concealed-carry immunity

By: Matthew Rosek//August 29, 2012//

TORT REPORT: What employers need to know about concealed-carry immunity

By: Matthew Rosek//August 29, 2012//

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Matthew Rosek is a partner at McCoy Law Group SC, Waukesha.

Wisconsin’s new concealed-carry law, while heralded by many gun-rights advocates, has created some confusion for employers and property owners.

The new law specifically provides immunity for employers/property owners that allow persons visiting their property to carry concealed weapons. There are however, some interesting issues presented by the law that should be discussed.

The concealed-carry law allows properly licensed persons to carry concealed weapons in most places. Specifically exempted places include: county, state, or federal courthouses, police stations, schools and airports after the TSA checkpoints. Some of the potential weapons that could be carried by a license holder include: handguns, electronic tasers, and knives.

To be qualified a person must be at least 21 years of age, complete a training program, and go through a background check before the state will issue a concealed carry permit.

If a license-holder has proper notice from the residential or commercial property owner or occupant that he or she may not enter or remain on the property while carrying a concealed weapon (conspicuous sign at least 5 inches by 7 inches “located in a prominent place near all of the entrances” or “all probable access points”) then that person can be cited for trespassing. Failure to post proper signage prohibiting concealed weapons on the premises, likely means the prohibition lacks legal effect.

Here is where things get a little more interesting. Under the law, property owners that do not prohibit an individual from carrying a concealed weapon on property are “immune from any liability arising from its decision.” This includes business owners, commercial property owners, etc.

This immunity provision will operate to insulate an employer/property owner (or legal occupier) from liability for injuries sustained by individuals as a result of a decision to allow weapons on the premises. As far as I can tell there does not need to be a need to make a “reasonable” decision or to anticipate any potential consequences for allowing the carrying of a concealed weapon

There is no immunity for an owner who prohibits a licensed individual from carrying a concealed weapon onto the property or into a place of business. Employers can prohibit employees from carrying concealed weapons in the workplace, but cannot prohibit employees from carrying concealed weapons or storing weapons in their motor vehicles as a condition of employment.

If an employer, owner or legal occupier prohibits weapons, what kind of liability will they have to properly protect the person entering their property?

Now that properly licensed individuals have a legal right to conceal carry and defend themselves, could an employee argue that an employer failed to establish a safe workplace because a prohibition on weapons in the workplace took away the employee’s right to legal self-protection while at the same time doing nothing to additionally secure the property or place of employment?

Here is the standard hypothetical being discussed in the legal circles about this issue: An employee is properly licensed to carry a concealed weapon, but his or her employer prohibits its employees from bringing their weapon to work and posts proper signs to that effect. An angered employee who was just fired walks out to his or her car and comes in with a shotgun and starts shooting. Under the new concealed carry law, the business is not immune from liability.

Has this employer made itself subject to a lawsuit for failure to properly secure the workplace? Must the employer/property owner do more than post signs prohibiting concealed weapons?

Pragmatically, most employers/property owners are not going to set-up a secure checkpoint with metal detectors or body scanners. Because this scenario is likely cost prohibitive, what prevents someone who has a concealed weapon from entering the premises? The answer is: nothing.

Given the difficulty in maintaining a “secure” workplace, I think all employers and property owners should allow the carrying of concealed weapons if for no other reason than to avail themselves of the immunity afforded to them under the new law.

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