Workplace gun policies need updating

McAfee & Taft's Kathy Neal interviewed for article about new Open Carry law

published in Tulsa Daily Commerce & Legal News | June 1, 2012

By Ralph Schaefer

“Don’t take your guns to town son, leave your guns at home,” is the chorus line of the same song by Johnny Cash in a 1958 single record.

That ballad, changed slightly, applies to Oklahomans as they prepare for the Open Carry law recently signed by Gov. Mary Fallin.

Rewritten, the song would say “Don’t take your guns to work, son, leave your guns at home.”

The ballad goes on to tell how the youthful Billy Joe ignored his mother’s advice and was shot to death by a stranger in a bar after he took his first drink.

Some employees might feel they are authorized under the new law to carry a sidearm to their workplace.

Not so, said Kathy Neal, attorney with the McAfee & Taft law firm.

The law does not change the private employer’s policy of prohibiting weapons in the workplace. Any employee insisting they have the right and violating established company policy can be fired.

Unfortunately, some will test the limits of the law and the company’s desire to enforce the workplace gun ban.

The open carry law goes into effect Nov. 1 and this allows time for employers to revisit policies on weapons, revise and update them if necessary, Neal said. The real change in the law is allowing ammunition along with weapons to be kept in a locked vehicle on the company parking lot. Previously the law permitted weapons but not ammunition to be in the vehicles.

There is a misperception the open carry law allows weapons to be carried nearly everywhere. That simply is not true. Other restricted areas include schools, government buildings and sporting events.

During the next five months employers must carefully examine their policies and procedures on weapons and publish them so all employees will know them and consequences for violations.

The law makes it clear that firearms and ammunition can be in the locked vehicle in the company parking lot.

What employers may not know is that during interviews they cannot attempt to learn if the applicant owns a firearm, Neal said. The penalty for asking that question is a misdemeanor charge and a $1,000 fine.

The unconcealed handgun defined by state law means a loaded or unloaded pistol carried upon the person in a belt or shoulder holster that is wholly or partially visible, or carried upon the person in a scabbard or case designed for carrying firearms that is wholly or partially visible.

A “pistol” means any derringer, revolver or semiautomatic firearm which

  • has an overall length of less than 16 inches.
  • is capable of discharging a projectile composed of any material, which may reasonably be expected to cause lethal injury.
  • is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand, and
  • either uses gunpowder, gas or any means of rocket propulsion to discharge the projectile.

A person making an application for an open carry permit must be a citizen of the U.S.; a resident of Oklahoma; be at least 21 years old; complete a firearms safety and training course and demonstrate competence and qualifications with the type of pistol to be carried as required by the law.

Required fees must be paid and the individual must comply in good faith with the provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act.

Oklahoma joins a dozen other states with open carry laws.

States include: Alabama, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, South Dakota, Vermont, Kentucky and Virginia.

Open carry states with restrictions — permit requirements — include: Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

This article appeared in the June 1, 2012, issue of Tulsa Daily Commerce & Legal News. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. © Tulsa Daily Commerce & Legal News. All rights reserved.