Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill on March 14, 2013, that allows handgun carry permit holders to transport and store firearms and ammunition anywhere in their vehicles, with certain restrictions. The new law is effective on July 1, 2013.
Under the new law, the holder of a valid handgun carry permit recognized in Tennessee may transport and store a firearm or ammunition in the permit holder’s privately-owned motor vehicle while in public or private parking areas in which the vehicle is permitted to be. If the permit holder is in the vehicle, the firearm or ammunition must "be kept from ordinary observation." If the permit holder is not in the vehicle, the firearm or ammunition must be "kept from ordinary observation" and locked in the trunk, glove box, or interior of the vehicle, or in a container affixed to the vehicle.
The law generally provides that no public or private business, or owner, manager, or legal possessor of the property, will be liable for the theft of the firearm or ammunition from the vehicle, or for civil damages, injuries, or death in any action involving a firearm or ammunition that is transported or stored in compliance with the new law. But a business, or owner, manager, or possessor of the property, may be held liable for committing an offense involving the firearm or ammunition or for intentionally soliciting someone else to do so.
"Parking area" under the law means "any property provided by a business entity, public or private employer, or the owner, manager, or legal possessor of the property for the purpose of permitting its invitees, customers, clients or employees to park privately-owned motor vehicles." "Parking area" does not include the "grounds or property of a owner-occupied, single-family detached residence, or a tenant-occupied single-family detached residence."
The bill broadly applies to any holder of a handgun carry permit that is recognized in Tennessee, including employees of a private business. But by restricting the bill to apply only to "parking areas," the legislature has not impinged on the rights of property owners, businesses, or employers to prohibit the possession—by anyone—of firearms and other weapons elsewhere on the premises.
The law does not expressly prohibit the discipline or discharge of employees for transporting or storing firearms or ammunition in their vehicles in workplace parking areas. But employers could be liable if they discipline or discharge an employee because he or she transported or stored a firearm or ammunition in compliance with the new law.
This new law may require revisions in your current firearm policies if they broadly prohibit firearms on the "premises." Please contact a member of our Labor and Employment Group if we can answer any questions or provide further guidance.