By: Kyle Whitecotton
How will Texas’ new Open Carry gun laws affect your ability to control your business environment?
Someone enters your business. As this person approaches and begins to speak, it becomes apparent he is there to express discontent. He is also armed with a handgun protruding from his hip. He’s not wearing a badge, and he doesn’t acknowledge the reason for carrying this weapon into your business. Your receptionist tries to calm the angry person but is intimidated. With no security in place and the situation escalating, the receptionist tries to decide whether to call police or draw her own weapon - if she has one. How much responsibility do you want as an employer for what could happen next? If the situation worsens, how will the culture at your place of business be affected? Even if the situation quells, does this interrupt the flow of business? How much will this cost? Will the parties survive? Will your business survive? Was this worth it?
Business leaders should engage in discussions about this issue before a situation happens.
Initiate open discussions with your staff and explore options. There may be positives, but the consequences of a negative event can still be irreparable. We recommend your security provider, attorney and/or HR representative be present for these discussions. Liability is a key factor often overlooked in cases where these types of considerations are made.
We recognize Texans want to carry, and in some cases, it could affect the patronage of your business to prohibit such carrying of weapons on your property, but it is an option. You maintain the freedom and control to discuss, deliberate and decide (the 3 Ds) what’s best for you and your business’s culture, environment, security, liability exposure and clients.
According to a 2015 survey of the Texas Police Chief’s Association, nearly 75 percent of Texas police chiefs opposed open carry in Texas.
Although citizens of Texas have been carrying concealed for some time, businesses for the most part have elected to ignore the topic rather than address it head-on and risk controversy.
Now with open carry approved, no one will be able to ignore the fact that there will be a number of citizens bringing weapons into their businesses. Some people will feel safer and some will be alarmed.
This must be addressed. I would also be remiss if I neglected to mention that the training standards and licensing requirements for carrying a personal weapon in Texas are deplorable. Although you might feel skilled and capable, we must look at the lowest common denominator when considering whether having barely-trained non-professional gun toters amidst your place of business is good.
Employers should review as many potential scenarios as possible. If there is a security or police presence on your property already, they will also formulate plans of action for scenarios. This is reasonable, since their professional presence and training provide you with some separation from the liability that comes with any gun-involved incident on your property (as long as you have simply vetted their capabilities and licensing).
These subjects should be addressed in your meetings: workplace violence, terminations, criminal trespass, theft intervention, complaints, active shooter incidents, enforcement of house rules, disgruntled patrons, religiously or politically charged persons, etc.
If employees un-holster a weapon at your place of business, are you willing to back their decision? Did they threaten to use the weapon or discharge the weapon? Did their presentation of the weapon exacerbate the situation? Did they have legal standing to do so? If not, are you considering additional training for your employees? If so, are you willing to also accept the liability for the training provided to your employees since they are now accountable for the application of that training?
Once you have made a decision, you should consult your attorney, security professional and HR director to create and disseminate a written policy and, if applicable, ensure signage prohibiting open carry weapons is sufficient.
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