Employers need concealed carry policies now

In addition to remembering to turn their clocks back an hour, business leaders will have one additional task on their calendars this fall: Establishing a concealed weapon policy for their workplace.

What about you? Are you going to allow your employees, customers and vendors carry concealed weapons in your office, shop or plant?

You best make up your mind soon. The new law allowing qualified Wisconsin residents to carry concealed weapons will go into effect Nov. 1.

In a recent poll of readers at BizTimes.com, 74 percent of respondents said they would not allow employees and customers to carry concealed weapons.

However, having that belief and taking action to prohibit them are two different things.

Doing nothing has the default effect of allowing people to carry concealed weapons.

If business owners choose to prohibit concealed weapons, they must post a conspicuous notice (at least 5 inches by 7 inches) near the entrances to the building, stating that carrying concealed weapons is prohibited. They also will need to expressly inform their employees in writing that weapons are prohibited.

No matter what you decide, your decision will have ramifications.

I recently asked attorney Jennifer Walther of Mawicke & Goisman, S.C., Milwaukee, to outline the key factors business owners need to be aware of as this law goes into effect. Walther suggests considering the following:

1. A license is required.
Except for military or law enforcement personnel, an individual is only authorized to carry concealed weapons if he obtains a “CCW license” by completing an application through the Department of Justice (DOJ).
2. The right to self-defense has not changed.
A CCW license does not give anyone new or additional rights to exercise self-defense or defense of others. Under existing law, a person can defend himself or a third person by using as much force as necessary to prevent or stop an attack, but cannot intentionally cause death or great bodily harm unless necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to him or the third person.
3. Local limits on gun use remain.
There are still laws in effect applicable to CCW licensees, such as city, village or town ordinances restricting the discharge of a firearm. Current law also prohibits discharging a firearm near certain parks, from a vehicle, from or across a highway, into a building or from an aircraft.
4. Now designated driver and designated carrier.
It is illegal for anyone to go armed with a firearm while under the influence of an intoxicant, such as alcohol or illegal drugs. A CCW licensee can carry a concealed weapon in a tavern only if they are not consuming alcohol on the premises.
5. Guns can be kept in cars at work.
An employer can prohibit employees from carrying concealed weapons on the job (whether on or off the employer’s premises), but may not prohibit the employee with a CCW license from carrying or storing a weapon or ammunition in the employee’s own vehicle, even if the vehicle is used in the course of employment or is parked on the employer’s property..
6. The immunity factor.
Business owners can prohibit people from carrying a concealed weapon on their premises. This prohibition can be applied separately from or together with the prohibition applicable to employees. Businesses that impose restrictions on weapons will forfeit the state’s legal shield of immunity from the consequences of that decision. A business that does not prohibit an individual from carrying a concealed weapon on premises is immune from any liability arising from that decision.

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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