Mark Miller

Thursday, 29 April 2004 06:23

Ohio's concealed carry law

On April 8, Ohio's concealed carry law became effective, and Ohio's sheriffs began processing applications from citizens for licenses allowing them to carry concealed handguns into many public locations. With the enactment of this statute, Ohio joins a majority of states that allow private citizens to carry concealed weapons.

This law presents many challenges to employers and landowners. Can employers and landowners prohibit concealed weapons on their premises? Are employers subject to liability for acts of violence in the workplace by an individual who uses a licensed concealed handgun?

Under the law, sheriffs are required to issue concealed carry licenses to individuals who:

* Are 21 or older

* Have passed a criminal background check

* Have not been adjudicated "mentally defective"

* Have gone through an appropriate training course

An individual who obtains a license may carry a concealed handgun into most public places except:

* Religious buildings

* Airports or airplanes

* Daycare centers

* Government buildings

* Places where alcohol is sold

Employers and landowners may, however, prohibit individuals from bringing concealed weapons into the workplace or onto their property. Employers and landowners who want to prohibit concealed weapons can do so by posting a sign at or near the entrance to the workplace/property advising that concealed weapons are not allowed.

There is no magic language that must be used. Instead, the posting must simply be in a conspicuous location and clearly indicate that concealed weapons are not permitted.

The law does, however, provide that a posting that contains a statement substantially similar to the following must be posted in certain government buildings where concealed weapons are prohibited by law: "Unless otherwise authorized by law, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code, no person shall knowingly possess, have under the person's control, convey or attempt to convey a deadly or dangerous ordnance onto these premises."

A notice similar to that would likely be sufficient for private employers or landowners who wish to prohibit concealed weapons. It has also been suggested that a picture of a handgun with a red circle around and through the handgun may be useful, especially with individuals who do not know English well.

A person who knowingly brings a concealed weapon onto a landowner's property or into a workplace in violation of a posted notice may be prosecuted criminally for carrying the concealed weapon, even if the person has a concealed carry license.

Even without a posting, employers may prohibit employees from carrying concealed weapons by simply establishing a policy banning such weapons. Many employers, in fact, already have policies in place that prohibit employees from bring weapons into the workplace.

However, if an employer relies solely on its policy without a posted sign, it may lose the ability to have an employee criminally prosecuted for bringing a concealed weapon into the workplace.

The law does provide some protection for private employers, giving them immunity for workplace injuries "caused by or related to" an individual bringing a licensed handgun onto the premises unless the employer somehow acted with "malicious purpose" in the incident.

Obviously, the law raises many other issues. For example, a unionized employer may have to negotiate with the union before adopting a new policy that prohibits employees from bringing concealed weapons into the workplace or establishes specific new penalties for weapons violations. Also, business owners who lease their place of business may have to check their lease before adopting a policy that prohibits individuals from bringing concealed weapons on the premises.

As always, it is a good idea to discuss the issues raised by this new law with legal counsel. With proper planning, employers and landowners can appropriately manage the risks presented by this statute. Steven Miller is an associate in the labor & employment group of Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease LLP. He can be reached at ( 513) 723-4000.

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