Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:27 pm
Employers wary of weapons at work
Companies may need to adopt new policies
By Steve Jagler, of SBT
As a new bill allowing citizens to conceal and carry weapons sails through the Wisconsin state Legislature, Milwaukee-area business owners are wary about the impact such a law will have on their companies.
The impact of the new law on Wisconsin businesses will be substantial and could range from needing to write new or revised employee handbooks and posting signs to possible increases in commercial liability insurance.
Some employers say they are concerned about employees being legally entitled to carry weapons in stressful situations, such as when they are being terminated, or when they are climbing on equipment at construction sites.
Many employers, describing themselves as "card-carrying Republicans," consider the bill to be a misguided waste of resources, time and political capital, given all of the other issues the state could focus upon to improve Wisconsin’s business climate.
Others say they support the legislation, but they’re still pondering how it will be handled at the workplace.
Will employers carry concealed weapons at work? Will they allow their employees to carry concealed weapons? Will they allow vendors and customers to carry concealed weapons? Small Business Times unofficially polled several members of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Council of Small Business Executives’ board of directors for their reactions to the bill.
"No. I think this is one of the stupidest pieces of legislation I’ve ever seen. I think it’s a waste of time and resources," said Charles Engberg, principal at Engberg Anderson Design Partnership, Milwaukee.
"Architects don’t carry guns. They carry ideas. It’s a threat to public safety. I think Wisconsin is just trying to get on the bandwagon to be current. There’s no need for it," Engberg said.
"I think the legislature should be putting itself in a position where they should be talking about issues that make more sense than this. I really think people will be less secure. The proliferation of handguns, the lobby behind that, is spurring this by saying, ‘Hey this is patriotic, just like we did in the old West," he said.
"This is a foolish piece of legislation, and there will be some dire consequences. We would not allow anybody to carry a weapon in our office, even if they were allowed to do it on the street. This is a smoke-free environment, and this will be a gun-free environment," Engberg said. "There are so many reasons why this is absolutely insane. This is misplaced, misguided and not only foolish, but dangerous, and these people who vote for it should be drummed out of office."
"No. Even if I weren’t at a bank, I’d think it’s a mistake. I think it’s a huge mistake, the whole effort," said P. Michael Mahoney, president of Park Bank, Milwaukee.
"No. No. And no. If I felt there was a security issue, I would hire a professional security person," said Richard Blomquist, president of Blomquist Benefits, Milwaukee.
"In my other business, there was a disgruntled employee carrying a deer rifle or shot gun who came onto the premises. But the fact that they had to carry a long gun, as opposed to a pistol, alerted the company right away and then the police that something was going on," Blomquist said. "But a handgun has one purpose — it’s an anti-personnel weapon. It’s designed to shoot people. You don’t go hunting with it, generally. Even though I’m a staunch Republican in most of my philosophies, I disagree here. The question here is where are you going to draw the line? We don’t allow people to carry around bazookas."
"I wouldn’t allow any staff to. I believe I wouldn’t know how to put it into practice, but I believe that I would not allow any clients to have a concealed weapon. They would have to check it at the door," said Jo Hawkins Donavan, president of Hawkins-Donovan & Associates, Whitefish Bay.
"Of course, the person that’s going to create a problem is not going to follow a rule, either. That’s a dilemma," she said. "No, I don’t think the law was thought through."
Robert McNamara, president of FJA Christiansen Roofing Co. on the northeast side of Milwaukee, has seen some crime at his business. A guard dog was beaten, and a few of his company’s vehicles were vandalized. However, McNamara does not believe the conceal-and-carry law is a good idea.
"As far as carrying weapons, I don’t know if I would want to see that on our job sites. We have worked on roofs with bullet holes in them. But I couldn’t imagine where we’d want to have that on our projects," McNamara said. "No, I would not, personally. I would prefer that we wouldn’t have vendors and people walking with concealed," McNamara said. "That’s a good question. If you are able to require otherwise, I would seriously consider posting notice to don’t bring them. I’m a hunter and everything, but just to have them in an employment situation is whole different thing."
"Would I personally apply for the permit? Probably not," said Christopher Rebholz president of Christopher Morgan, New Berlin.
"I would not likely carry a concealed weapon into my workplace. I would not be diametrically opposed to a client coming into the workplace, provided they were properly permitted," Rebholz said.
"Employees would not be allowed, just by the general nature of our business. I think it’s up to the individual business to set rules and regulations governing conduct and workplace actions. I don’t think it’s any different than the right to smoke or not smoke in the workplace," Rebholz said.
"It’s a constitutional issue. I would imagine I would handle it much like the tavern industry handles it nationwide, with discreetly placed signage indicating that this establishment subscribes to no concealed weapons and check them in. I would imagine we would have to."
"That’s a good question. I’ll be real frank here. When we used to do work in some of the more dangerous parts of town, I’d carry, because I’d fear being set up and jumped when I was being paid," Gregg Eisenhardt, president of Good Electric Co., Milwaukee
"I would not allow my employees to carry while they’re being paid on my payroll. As for customers, I’d probably post a sign that says, ‘Let me know if you’re packing.’ But they have it (conceal and carry) in Arizona, and it’s not an issue. It’s not a Tombstone shootout. It’s a non-issue down there. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I’m a supporter of this."
"I don’t think I’d have a need to carry one to my business. I am an avid hunter, fisherman and do own firearms," said Mike Herro, chief executive officer and owner of Geo-Synthetics in Waukesha
"I don’t think I would have a moratorium on employees or vendors or customers bringing them in. However, I’d like to be informed. I’m not sure yet how we’ll handle it," Herro said. "Customers? I don’t doubt that I have customers and vendors coming in here with concealed weapons already. Nor do I have a problem with the whole bill. I think it’s fine. I think the reality of life is it’s already happening around us, whether we want to admit it or not."
"That’s a great question. Myself, no. I don’t think many of us have really spent a great deal of time looking at the ramifications of everyday life at the firm here," William Mielke, president and CEO, Ruekert & Mielke, Waukesha. "My initial impression would be I can’t see that we would want to get into monitoring or prohibiting anyone from carrying. It would just put another burden on the employer. I don’t know that we would need excessive business intrusion into that. My biggest question would be, how would you monitor that? I cannot envision an employer having to go through a full metal detection system just for people coming and going from your place of business."
Nov. 14, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee