While Congress spent June finally taking bipartisan action to reduce gun violence, the Supreme Court was making its own landmark ruling on gun control. The high court ruled unconstitutional a New York State law requiring people who wanted to carry a concealed firearm to show a special reason to do so (e.g., transporting money for a bank). The Supreme Court struck down this law, arguing that it turned the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms into a privilege limited to only some people.
At least six other states – including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island – had or have similar laws on the books. Collectively, those seven states make up about 25 percent of the U.S. population. In addition, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island have related laws setting limits on how firearm permits are issued, and legal experts say it’s likely those laws will need to change too.
Some states, such as New York, were quick to pass new laws limiting the concealed carry of firearms in areas such as government buildings, schools, public transportation and places of worship. New Jersey quickly passed a package of new gun legislation as well. Other states, such as Maryland, moved to stop enforcing existing laws and align with the Supreme Court’s ruling. The result? A lot of confusion for gun owners and employers as the legal back and forth continues.
“Both employers and gun owners should make sure they fully understand all applicable federal and state laws,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Even with the expansion of gun laws in many states, it may not be legal to carry a firearm in certain public places or on private property.”
Let’s start with a look at what the recent Supreme Court ruling does (and doesn’t) change and why states can still legally pass new gun laws.
Limited Scope of Supreme Court Ruling
The Supreme Court’s decision only made it unconstitutional for states to deny someone the right to carry a firearm unless that person shows a specific need. States are still allowed to regulate types of firearms, where people can carry firearms and the permitting process, including requirements for background checks and training. This is why states like New York were able to pass new gun legislation following the Supreme Court decision.
So even with the recent Supreme Court ruling, states can still require people to get a license to carry a gun and base that license on several conditions. Justice Kavanaugh wrote as much, listing “fingerprinting, a background check, a mental health records check and training in firearms handling and in laws regarding the use of force, among other possible requirements” as legal options.
What About Permitless Carry States?
The recent ruling around concealed carry permits isn’t the only one creating confusion and concern. So far in 2022, four additional states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and Ohio – have passed permitless carry laws (also sometimes called “constitutional carry”), bringing the total to 25 states that don’t require a permit to carry a firearm. In these states, if a person can legally obtain a firearm, they’re allowed to legally carry that firearm in public.
In Ohio, the latest state to pass permitless carry, gun owners can now concealed carry a firearm without any additional permitting, training or background checks. However, that doesn’t mean gun owners in Ohio or other states can freely carry a firearm anywhere they want. Similar to New York, Ohio also prohibits firearms in government buildings, places of worship and gives private businesses the ability to prohibit firearms as well.
It’s worth noting that the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that introducing right-to-carry laws increases violent firearm crime by about 30 percent. Instead of deterring violence, the NBER found that the altered behavior of the public, police and criminals (primarily through increases in gun theft) led to more violent crime and lower clearance rates for violent crime cases. That’s why Ohio’s Fraternal Order of Police opposed the introduction of permitless carry in the state.
Time for Employers to Review Policies, Especially for Parking Lots
Despite new laws allowing more people to carry firearms in more places, in almost all cases private employers can still maintain rules and policies prohibiting the presence of firearms on their premises or property. That includes company vehicles or other vehicles owned by the employer.
There’s one area employers may no longer be able to mandate in some permitless carry states, however, and that is a worker’s private vehicle. This is also known as the “parking lot rule.” This discrepancy wasn’t explicitly addressed in the new Ohio law, for example, but many legal experts believe employers will now have to allow workers to store a firearm in their personal vehicle on company property – as long as the weapon and ammunition are locked in the trunk, glove compartment or other separate compartment.
While employers aren’t legally required to have a policy either allowing or prohibiting firearms at work, it’s recommended that employers take a clear position and inform workers, vendors and other site visitors about that policy to avoid any confusion. Employers should consult a legal expert familiar with new or changing gun laws in their state and determine whether any changes to their policies or onsite signage are necessary.
Just like it’s an employer’s responsibility to adjust their policies if needed when laws change, it’s the responsibility of gun owners to understand what is and isn’t allowed by new gun legislation. If you aren’t sure about the circumstances when it’s legal to carry a gun in your state, contact your state’s police department and ask. Doing so will help ensure you’re following any requirements put in place and only carrying a firearm when it’s legal to do so.