On Jan. 8, Governor Taft signed HB 12, authorizing Ohio sheriffs to issue licenses allowing private citizens to carry concealed handguns. This bill, which goes into effect 90 days after it is filed with the Secretary of State, requires sheriffs to issue a concealed carry permit to any Ohioan age 21 or older who:
- passes a criminal background check,
- has no history of mental illness, and
- completes a certified 12-hour training course on weapons handling and safety.
HB 12 also creates penalties for carrying a concealed handgun without a license or falsifying information to obtain a license, and forbids the carrying of concealed handguns in certain types of facilities, including portions of buildings owned or used by the state, places of worship and school safety zones. Finally, it requires sheriffs to maintain records regarding the identity of applicants, but forbids disclosure of those records to anyone but journalists.
HB 12 specifically preserves the right of private employers to decide whether employees and others who frequently visit the employer's premises can carry concealed handguns, even if properly licensed. A private entity may bar nonemployees from carrying firearms by posting a conspicuous sign. Moreover, it may forbid employees from carrying handguns while on company premises or in company-owned vehicles.
The bill also contains specific protections for employers. In a provision drafted in part by Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P. labor and employment lawyers, the bill grants limited immunity from liability to employers (both private and public) for the actions of employees who are licensed to carry concealed handguns. Under the terms of the bill, a private employer is immune from any civil action caused by an employee who is licensed and brings a handgun onto the employer's premises, unless the employer acted maliciously. In addition, the bill specifically protects employers from liability for allowing licensed employees to carry concealed handguns.
Although the bill does not require employers to formulate a policy regarding concealed handguns, employers are advised to consider setting a policy before a situation arises. If the employer ultimately decides that it will forbid licensed individuals from carrying handguns on its premises, the employer should carefully consider how it will enforce the policy and ensure that enforcement is consistent. Finally, employers in businesses likely to be frequented by individuals carrying licensed handguns may wish to put in place greater security measures.
Any employer or other entity seeking to form such a policy should consult with legal counsel to design a program that will meet this new and as-yet untested standard. For more information on these important decisions, please contact the Squire Sanders lawyer with whom you are acquainted or one listed in this update.