One factor aggravating concerns about workplace violence in corporate America is the easy availability of firearms. In many states, citizens, including employees, have the right to carry firearms onto a company’s property even though firearms are prohibited in the workplace. In effect, an employee prone to violence may have a firearm as near as their vehicle in the company parking lot.
Currently, 23 states in the U.S. have so-called “parking lot storage” laws, which enable employees to store firearms in their vehicle’s trunk or glove box despite any corporate ban on weaponry. The laws have evolved as an expression of the Second Amendment “Right to Bear Arms” in the last decade or so. There is some variance in the laws from state to state, but they generally allow a citizen to carry a gun to and from work and keep it stored out of sight in their vehicle. Global Security Exchange (GSX) is the new branding for ASIS International’s annual conference and trade show
Employee Second Amendment rights
“The laws contend that employees should not have to give up their Second Amendment rights between home and the workplace and should be able to have a gun with them for protection from their front door at home to the front door of the workplace,” says Eddie Sorrells, Chief Operating Office/General Council of DSI Security Services.
Sorrells will speak about the current state of the laws, how they came about, the nuances of state-to-state differences, and the possible impact on overall corporate security in a session titled “Employees Who Carry: Preventing Workplace Violence” at the upcoming GSX conference in Las Vegas, 23rd - 27th September. Global Security Exchange (GSX) is the new branding for ASIS International’s annual conference and trade show, attended by more than 22,000 security professionals from 100-plus countries. Sorrells’ session will be Sept. 24 from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m.
Restrictions on gun visibility
Employees may think the “right to carry” extends to the workplace, but the right only extends to the parking lot. The company still has the right to ban guns inside the premises. However, it is unlawful in some states for companies to search vehicles in parking lots, and companies who do so are violating the law, says Sorrells. Among the various state laws, some exempt public education institutions and other public venues. Depending on how the laws are written, there may be other exemptions, too. In Florida, for example, the law exempts any organisations that have explosives on site.
With weapons on a company's property, a high-risk termination could potentially become violent
Most laws require weapons to be stored securely out of sight. However, in Alabama, for example, it is legal to store validly permitted guns in full view during hunting season, Sorrells says. A resident of Alabama himself, Sorrells has been in the contract security business for 27 years, working mostly in multi-state operations. He has worked for 500 or so corporate security organisations throughout the country and is a practicing attorney who has studied issues of workplace violence and active shooters.
“There is a political element to these laws, which were created with the goal of protecting Second Amendment rights,” says Sorrells, who says he sees arguments on both sides of the issue. However, political opinions aside, “if you’re a business owner, you have to contend with dozens of weapons on a company’s property,” he adds. “That could be an issue if a high-risk termination could potentially become violent. You have to assume there is a weapon in that person’s vehicle.” Sorrells' session will dive into the case law and illuminate some of the legal issues and how courts have addressed them
GSX education program
After the session, Sorrells hopes attendees will take away a good working knowledge of the state of the laws, how to comply with the laws, and issues such as posting of signs. The session will dive into the case law and illuminate some of the legal issues and how courts have addressed them.
The timely session is an example of the valuable information attendees can gain by attending GSX. Sorrells has been attending the yearly ASIS International Conference and Exhibits for more than 20 years, at least since the mid-1990s.
As the pre-eminent security organisation around the world, ASIS International provides unrivalled educational and networking opportunities at the yearly conference, he says. “There is a vast amount of networking and educational offerings on a wide variety of topics, including technology, legal issues, risk management, workplace violence, consulting, and anything under the sun,” says Sorrells.
The newly branded GSX education program is led by subject matter experts from ASIS International, InfraGard (a public-private partnership between U.S. businesses and the Federal Bureau of Investigation), and ISSA (Information Systems Security Association). Sessions will deliver valuable, actionable takeaways to help attendees shape their security strategies. There will also be an exhibition of 550-plus suppliers and manufacturers highlighting the latest security solutions.