Every retailer, restaurant and hospitality company doing business in the U.S. must accept the fact that guns are being brought onto their property. The concealed/open carry gun laws are changing and evolving at record speed. As of now, all 50 states and Washington DC allow at least some people to carry a concealed weapon and in 41 states, open carry is legal. This is not an issue that is going away. To the contrary, it is just warming up.
If you are like most companies, you’ve taken the position to “comply with state laws.” Taking this position is often the path of least resistance for a company. However, even though this may be an easy approach to take publicly, internally it is simply not enough to protect your company against potential liability if a shooting occurs.
The last thing anyone wants to see is another Browns’ Chicken or Lane Bryant incident, but crossing your fingers and hoping it never happens on your property will not protect your company. It does not matter if your business is in the suburbs, in a small rural town or in downtown Chicago, bad things happen. Whether you can realistically prevent bag things from happening on your property is a topic for another day.
The topic for today is, how can you best be prepared? It’s time for a quick internal assessment of your company’s policies and contracts. In what category of preparedness does your company fall:
A+ All contracts, leases, and vendor agreements have been updated to ensure they are consist with conceal/open carry laws; all internal policies and manuals (including policies that impact employees, customers and vendors) have been reviewed and updated; defense counsel has reviewed all changes to ensure they are proper and complete; employee training has taken place; and the policies are being enforced.
C An internal policy was created, indicating that the company will comply with all state laws; and an employee policy was created, indicating that employees may not conceal or open carry weapons at work.
F There have been discussions about the conceal/open carry laws and everyone agrees they may impact the company.
I know what you are thinking – you crazy lawyer! Do you have any idea what you’re asking of us? Do you realize we have stores in every state? Do you realize how many contracts and leases we have? Do you realize how many employees would need to be trained and how much time and money that would take? I know this is not an easy task, especially with every state having its own laws. However, it is something that really must be done.
Think of it this way – If there is one shooting incident on your property and someone is badly injured, the damages in that case alone could cover the cost of updating your policies and contracts and training your employees.
Or think of it this way – Who do you want reviewing your contracts and internal policies after a shooting incident that resulted in customer injuries? The plaintiff’s attorney who is representing the injured parties or your own defense counsel?
The best way to ensure that the contracts and policies of your company comply with current concealed and open carry laws is to have a complete analysis done by your litigation defense attorney. Having this analysis done before an incident takes place could be the difference between a guilty and not guilty verdict at trial. A few of the items you want to be sure to review and update are:
- Property Leases & Management Agreements
- Internal Security Policies and/or Manuals
- Outside Security Vendor Contracts
- Vendor Contracts/Third Party Contracts
- Employee Policies / Handbook
- Franchise Agreements
Once the analysis of your company contracts and policies is complete, don’t forget to implement and enforce the policies and ensure all employees are trained. The best defense to a shooting on your property is a good offense. Be prepared before it happens.