by Greg Northen
With hit shows like AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and recent movies like “World War Z,” it seems the odds of a possible zombie apocalypse have never been higher. Regardless of your take on whether such an event could occur, the number of Arkansans applying for concealed carry licenses (CCLs) for firearms (for whatever reason) is similarly at an all-time high. In the first three months of 2013, applications for CCLs in Arkansas totaled more than half of the total number of 2012. As of May 2013, approximately 140,000 Arkansans had active CCLs.
The recent news involving Arkansas school districts arming and training staff for protection of students on school property has brought the issue of carrying handguns to the forefront in Arkansas. Notably, the Arkansas Legislature passed a new statute this year (effective July 4, 2013) that arguably allows for “open carry” in certain circumstances. (NOTE: there is much debate as to the interpretation of this statute, and the Arkansas Attorney General has narrowly construed the allowances of where an Arkansan can legally carry a handgun.) Some businesses are pushing back against State laws broadening citizens’ rights to carry handguns. Starbucks, Caterpillar and FedEx are a few regional companies pushing for corporate rights to prohibit firearms in the workplace. Basically, there are lots of questions as to when and where an Arkansan can lawfully carry a handgun.
As to your workplace, Arkansas law on this issue is fairly clear. If an employer posts a Notice that handguns are not permitted in the workplace, then employees may not (whether concealed or openly) carry a handgun into “Any place at the discretion of the person or entity exercising control over the physical location of the place by placing at each entrance to the place a written notice clearly readable at a distance of not less than ten feet (10’) that ‘carrying a handgun is prohibited.’” Failure to comply with this posting is a Class A Misdemeanor.
Simply put, if your company chooses to prohibit firearms in the workplace, or not, then it may certainly do so. Also, there is no prohibition to asking employees whether they are carrying a handgun on their person or if they hold an active CCL. However, if you plan to ask your employees about these issues, we recommend having a policy in place before making these inquiries so that employees may be informed ahead of time and not feel as though their privacy rights are being violated.
As the law stands today, Arkansas employers may choose whether to allow or prohibit firearms/concealed handguns in the workplace. There are posting requirements for prohibiting concealed weapons by licensed employees (in order to impose criminal penalties at least). Importantly, having customized policies and notices in effect at all times is vital to insure compliance.
Contact an attorney with CGWG with any questions about firearms policies in your workplace.