Conceal-and-Carry Guns in the Workplace: Safe or Not?

by | Oct 18, 2023 | I-O Psychology, Workplace Safety | 0 comments

Businesses have considerations to make about policies, attitudes, and workplace safety.

Many states, including my home state of Illinois, allow gun owners to conceal and carry a firearm with a license. In fact, on June 23, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court reduced any state’s ability to restrict the right to carry a firearm for self-defense as guaranteed by the Second Amendment (Mayes, 2022). The law does not specifically mention the workplace, so the burden of regulating concealing and carrying a weapon allowable by law falls on the leadership of every organization (Shepherd, 2022). Illinois (430 ILCS 66/) Firearm Concealed Carry Act forbids any institution from preventing a firearm from being stored in a licensed holder’s locked vehicle, but nothing explicitly states any prohibitions regarding the workplace.

Employers should know that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires in the general-duty clause that all employers provide and maintain a safe workplace. Some employers state that carrying a weapon at work will be grounds for “cause” when firing an employee, but they may allow guns in the workplace, which simply muddles the message. Employers should make the safety and well-being of all employers their top priority. However, some appear to kowtow to the will of some gun owners over those who would not want a gun in the workplace.

In case you need reasons

Outside of practical thinking, many reasons exist to explain why — unless one works within law enforcement or some other occupation requiring the use of firearms as part of one’s duties — guns do not belong in the workplace. A few of the most important reasons include:

  • Accidental shootings: Guns are dangerous weapons, and even the most responsible gun owner can make a mistake. In a workplace setting, an accidental shooting could have devastating consequences.
  • Increased risk of violence: The presence of guns in the workplace can increase the risk of violence, both intentional and unintentional. This is especially true in workplaces where there is already tension or conflict.
  • Legal liability: Employers who allow employees to bring guns to work may be held liable if someone is injured or killed in an accident or shooting.
  • Damage to morale: The presence of guns in the workplace can create a climate of fear and intimidation. This can make it difficult for employees to feel safe and comfortable at work, which can lead to decreased productivity and morale.
  • Violation of company policy: Many companies have policies that prohibit employees from bringing guns to work. Allowing employees to carry guns in violation of company policy can open the company up to legal liability.
  • Coercive management: Some supervisors exercise coercive power to impose and maintain their control over subordinates. Letting employees know that they conceal-and-carry does not put many minds at ease, particularly if the manager appears prone to stress and anxious behaviors. Employees may feel powerless and unsafe without the will to express their discomfort.
  • Increase risk of theft or loss: Guns can easily be lost or stolen. People who make bad decisions can do nefarious or unsafe things with a lost or stolen firearm resulting in damaged property, injury, or death.

For all of these reasons, and more, employers should consider conceal-and-carry a bad idea in the workplace. Executive leadership should carefully consider the risks and benefits of allowing employees to carry guns before making a decision.

Drinking and guns in the workplace don’t mix

Guns can also create a climate of fear and anxiety, which can make it difficult for employees to focus on their work. Employers can compound this when they allow alcohol to be consumed in the office or otherwise on the job. In Illinois, the law directly addresses carrying a firearm while under the influence of drugs and alcohol (Illinois General Assembly, 2013):

(d) A licensee shall not carry a concealed firearm while under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, intoxicating compound or combination of compounds, or any combination thereof, under the standards set forth in subsection (a) of Section 11–501 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

A licensee in violation of this subsection (d) shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for a first or second violation and a Class 4 felony for a third violation. The Illinois State Police may suspend a license for up to 6 months for a second violation and shall permanently revoke a license for a third violation.

Employers substantially expose themselves to more risk when allowing drinking and guns among employees.

Even more considerations regarding work and guns

More than what we have addressed above, organizations should consider some of these questions:

  • How will guns be stored and secured? This should be specifically addressed for the knowledge of the entire staff to understand their level of comfort and risk.
  • Who will be responsible for training employees on gun safety? Few organizations outside of law enforcement or security likely have training regarding gun safety. Employers should consider reviewing company policies and exercising transparency when communicating policies and procedures to the rest of the staff.
  • How will the company handle reports of unauthorized gun possession, threats, or other gun-related workplace aggression or violence? Safety protocols for many other aspects of work exist including how to handle sexual harassment, fire emergencies, and sometimes other situations regarding first aid. However, if organizations permit guns, should they not also provide measures to stop bad behavior through proper reporting?

These and should important questions require tough answers BEFORE organizations decide to allow guns in the workplace.

References

Illinois General Assembly. (2013). (430 ILCS 66/) Firearm Concealed Carry Act. https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3497&ChapterID=39

Mayes, J. (2022). Guns in the Workplace: What Has Changed, and What Can Employers Expect? Human Resources Management (SHRM). https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/gun-law-workplace-policy.aspx

Shepherd, L. (2022). Changes in gun laws affect the workplace. Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/guns-at-workplace-bruen.aspx

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