The issue of how guns are handled in the workplace is a complex one. On the one hand, the right to own guns is something that is precious in this country, and in some states where there are concealed carry laws many gun owners are eager to use those rights, and would feel wronged if they were told that they were not allowed to bring their gun to work. On the other hand, business owners are liable for incidents that happen at their property, and they have an obligation to protect their customers and their employees. Balancing that, while still acting within the law, is difficult.
The law varies from state to state and sometimes there are municipal laws to consider as well. In addition to laws, you should think about the culture you want to foster at your company, and what the culture usually is in your industry.
Business owners are allowed to ban guns in their workplace, if they wish. However, they will need to consider whether the decision to ban guns could potentially harm the business in some way or create a backlash from customers or employees. This risk should be weighed against the risk of putting employees at risk – both by banning guns (if employees comply but a customer smuggles one in) or by allowing guns and that rule creating a risky situation.
It is important to take legal advice and understand the state and municipal legal frameworks that affect the ability for your business to make a ruling regarding guns. There may be trade associations that you can seek advice from, and you may be able to get advice from fellow business owners.
You may not need a policy if you live in an area where gun ownership is uncommon. Remember that if you establish a policy, that will draw attention to the issue of gun ownership. Your intent may be to act in order to prevent a gun-related incident, but drafting and sharing a policy could create an issue where one does not exist. Sometimes, there’s just no need to act.
In areas where employees have a concealed carry weapon permit, or where there is a strong culture for hunters and gun ownership, then it does make sense to have a policy. There are laws addressing guns at work in some states, but these laws vary massively, and it’s important to understand whether the law protects an employee’s right to carry a gun in their car, for example – especially if the car is used for work purposes, or is parked within your business’ property.
If you do not draft a policy regarding guns, then you should look at whether there are statutory policies that will grant you immunity if there were a gun related incident at the workplace. In some states, this is the case, and you may feel that this reassurance is enough.
If you prohibit guns in the workplace, then you must make sure that employees are informed of that, and you should have signs at the entrance, and in the parking lot, to ensure that vendors, customers and employees are reminded of the rule. You may need to take some other safety-related measures to ensure that people are complying with the rule. Do not enact a policy unless you are willing to follow through and enforce it.
Gun ownership is a complex issue, and you should think your policies through carefully. The most important thing is that whatever policy you choose (or decide against choosing) is a decision made after careful thought, and in good faith.