By Sara J. Ackermann
July 8, 2011
Today, at the Grand Lodge in Wausau, Governor Walker signed into law a bill that allows qualified individuals to carry concealed weapons, except in certain places such as courthouses and police stations. The law, which becomes effective on November 1, 2011, contains a number of provisions that will affect public and private employers in Wisconsin.
What exactly does this law allow?
The law signed by Walker is a substitute amendment to the current law governing the carrying of concealed weapons. Under the new law, a “licensee” may carry a concealed weapon anywhere in Wisconsin except as provided in the substitute amendment.
Applications for a license, or permit, are submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) who then reviews the applications, and issues licenses to those “qualified individuals.” Qualified individuals must be 21 years or older, Wisconsin residents, and provided to the DOJ proof of firearm training.
Permits will not be issued to individuals who have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony and the court has prohibited the individual from possessing a dangerous weapon as a condition of bail or a condition of release. Further, those individuals prohibited under federal or state law from possessing a firearm will not be able to obtain a license.
A “weapon” as defined by the substitute amendment is a “handgun, an electric weapon, a knife other than a switchblade, or a substitute amendment club.”
Where is carrying a concealed weapon specifically prohibited under the new law?
Any portion of a building that is a county, state, or federal courthouse.
Any portion of a building that is a municipal courtroom if court is in session.
A place beyond security the checkpoint in an airport.
Any portion of a building that is a police station, sheriff’s office, state patrol station, or the office of a Division of Criminal Investigation special agent of DOJ.
Any portion of a building that is a prison, jail, house of correction, or secured correctional facility.
State parks or state fish hatcheries (unless the firearm is unloaded and enclosed within a carrying case).
What about concealed weapons on school grounds?
Under current law, guns are banned in schools, on school grounds and in school zones – the area 1,000 feet beyond school grounds. The substitute amendment keeps in place the ban on carrying weapons in schools and on school grounds, but would allow permit holders to carry guns in areas just off school grounds.
Pursuant to the new law, individuals may possess a firearm in a school zone when:
The firearm is not loaded and is encased or in a locked firearms rack that is on a motor vehicle.
A state-certified commission warden is acting in his or her official capacity.
A person is legally hunting in a school forest if the school board has decided that hunting may be allowed in the school forest.
Individuals may possess a firearm in or on the grounds of a school or within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a school under the following circumstances:
On private property that is not part of school grounds.
For use in a program approved by a school in the school zone.
In accordance with a contract entered into between a school in the school zone and the individual or employer of the individual.
By a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity.
The firearm is unloaded and is possessed by an individual while traversing school premises for the purpose of gaining access to public or private lands open to hunting, if the entry on the school premises is authorized by school authorities.
Where MAY concealed weapons be prohibited?
The new law allows the prohibition of concealed weapons in buildings and certain other locations as follows:
“Nonresidential buildings” which include the “grounds of a nonresidential building.” (e.g. private employers.)
Sites where “special events” are held, such as concerts, sporting events, etc.
Buildings owned, occupied, or controlled by the state or local government unit (e.g. public employers.)
Buildings on the grounds of a university or college.
What do employers need to do to prohibit concealed weapons in the workplace?
For public and private employers alike, a sign must be posted that states weapons are not permitted. The sign must:
Be located in a prominent place near all entrances of the building/site; and
Be at least five inches by seven inches.
Can employers prevent employees from carrying weapons in the employee’s vehicle?
No. An employer may not prohibit an employee from carrying a concealed weapon in the employee’s vehicle as a condition of employment. This holds true when the employee’s vehicle is used during the course of employment, and when the vehicle is driven and parked on property used by the employer.
What are the liability implications of prohibiting concealed weapons?
The law specifically grants immunity to an employer who does not prohibit one or more employees from carrying a concealed weapon from any liability arising from that decision.
Employers who prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons will not receive statutory immunity. This lack of blanket immunity does not mean that employers who prohibit concealed weapons on their property will automatically be liable for damages sustained on their premise – liability will still be analyzed based upon the facts surrounding the incident.
What does this mean for employers?
Employers who choose to prohibit concealed weapons must prepare to abide by the posting requirements outlined above. Further, employers will need to revise their current workplace policies to ensure compliance with the new law. The full text of 2011 Senate Bill 93 can be found here:
https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/proposals/sb93 If you have questions regarding the above, please contact Sara Ackermann, the author of this article, or any of the attorneys in the Employment, Benefits & Labor Relations Practice Group of Ruder Ware.
This document provides information of a general nature regarding legislative or other legal developments, and is based on the state of the law at the time of the original publication of this article. None of the information contained herein is intended as legal advice or opinion relative to specific matters, facts, situations, or issues, and additional facts and information or future developments may affect the subjects addressed. You should not act upon the information in this document without discussing your specific situation with legal counsel.
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