On December 19, 2016, Governor John Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 199, which revises the state’s laws on where a concealed carry firearm licensee is allowed to take a gun. The law has been reported in wildly differing ways, leading many business owners to scratch their heads about what they will or will not be allowed to do about firearms at their businesses come March 21 when the law goes into effect. Here are the main points Ohio business owners should remember about the new gun law:
You still don’t have to allow guns into your building. Many business owners don’t want guns to be carried into their buildings or onto their property. Fear not – the law has generally not changed on this point. The new law specifically states that private businesses are free to develop their own firearms policies and are free to prohibit firearms from their facilities and from company vehicles. Any private business that wants to ban guns from its facilities and the surrounding property may still do so. However, you must remember to post a sign in a conspicuous location stating that firearms are not allowed.
You will not have the right to ban guns from private vehicles. A significant new feature of the law is that private businesses will no longer be able to ban concealed handgun licensees from keeping their guns in their own cars, even if those cars are parked on company property. Many business owners are concerned by this change because they are losing the ability to ban firearms from their property completely. While this is a valid concern, business owners may be somewhat comforted that there are restrictions on licensees’ rights. The firearm must remain in the vehicle and must be locked in the trunk, the glove box, or an enclosed container. The firearm must be unloaded. The license-holder may not carry the gun under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
You generally will not be liable if something goes wrong. If it is any consolation to business owners worried about firearms in licensees’ cars, the law specifically builds in protections for private employers if something goes wrong. If an employee brings a gun onto the premises and causes injury, death or property damage, the employer will be immune from being sued unless the employer somehow acted maliciously.
Some of the other reported changes to the law have been overstated. There has been a fair amount of sensationalism about the new law. For example, many media outlets reported that the new law legalized hand guns in day care centers and at universities, causing resistance to the so-called “guns everywhere” bill. This is overstated, and day care facility owners and university administrators should know that it is not open season for licensees to carry guns.
Day care centers previously were on a list of locations where a concealed weapon could never be carried. Although they have been removed from this list, day care center facilitators still have the choice whether to allow concealed guns, and like any other private business owner, they can decide to ban them. Universities will still generally ban concealed weapons unless they are in a locked car as described above, or unless the board of trustees specifically authorizes certain people to carry concealed weapons. However, nothing requires a board of trustees to do so.
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