With the enactment of the Firearm Concealed Carry Act (PA 098-0063), private licensed citizens in Illinois will be permitted to carry concealed firearms. The Act is the byproduct of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling last year in Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. 2012), in which the court struck down Illinois’s concealed firearm carry ban as unconstitutional. Although similar laws exist in every other state, the Act marks a drastic shift from Illinois’s long-standing ban on concealed firearms and directly impacts employers.
Presumption that Concealed Weapons are Permitted on Private Property
In order for employers to prohibit individuals who obtain a license from carrying concealed firearms onto their private property, the Act requires the owner of the property to “clearly and conspicuously” post a four inch by six inch sign in the entrance of the building indicating that firearms are prohibited on the property. The Act gives the Illinois State Police the discretion to adopt the design for these standardized signs.
Employers should not overlook the significance of these signs. Even if an employer has a workplace policy banning firearms, without a sign conforming to the Act’s requirements an employer cannot legally prevent an employee from entering the workplace carrying a concealed weapon. Thus, in addition to visibly posted signs that comply with the Act, employers should ensure that they have well-structured workplace policies prohibiting employees and visitors from bringing weapons into their property.
Exceptions to the Concealed Carry Rule
The Act lists numerous types of “prohibited areas” in which it is illegal for licensed individuals to carry a concealed weapon. These include:
pre-schools, child care facilities, or public and private elementary schools or secondary schools;
establishments that serve alcohol on their premises and have earned more than 50 percent of their gross receipts within the past 3 months from the sale of alcohol;
public and private hospitals, mental health facilities, or nursing homes;
public and private community colleges, colleges, or universities; and
gaming facilities licensed under the Riverboat Gambling Act or the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975.
Employers that own or operate property that falls within any of these classifications are not required to post signs to prohibit licensed employees from carrying concealed weapons onto their private property—although it may be prudent to do so. These employers should nevertheless still have workplace policies in place preventing employees from bringing firearms into the workplace.
The Parking Lot Exception
The Act’s most expansive exception applies to parking lots. In short, employers cannot restrict employees—even in the above-listed “prohibited areas”—from carrying a concealed firearm into a parking lot or storing a firearm (or ammunition) within a locked vehicle. Numerous states have enacted “guns in the parking lot” laws that carve out a similar exception for individuals carrying concealed weapons.
Because the Act does not limit individuals to only being able to store firearms within their own vehicles, licensed employees assigned to drive company-owned vehicles could foreseeably store a firearm within a company vehicle and not face prosecution under the Act. Employers should protect against this possibility and make sure that their workplace policies include provisions prohibiting employees from carrying firearms in company-owned vehicles.
Practical Tips for Employers
Employers should immediately familiarize themselves with the salient provisions of the Firearm Concealed Carry Act discussed above and review their workplace policies concerning weapons, firearms, and safety. Although the Act gives the Illinois State Police until January 2014 to make applications for a concealed carry license available—and allows the department up to 90 days to make a decision to issue or deny a license to an applicant—employers should begin evaluating their workplace policies now and drafting more restrictive policies where needed.
Note: This article was published in the July 19, 2013 issue of the Illinois eAuthority.