When Ohio’s original concealed carry law was first enacted in 2003, language was included at the request of the Ohio Chamber that protects employers’ rights to prohibit concealed weapons on their property, including in vehicles, if they so choose. Unfortunately, an amendment to Senate Bill 199 made changes to allow employees to store firearms in their vehicle on employers’ property, commonly known as “parking lot carry.” The amended bill recently passed both chambers of the legislature and was signed by Governor Kasich on December 19th.
We continue to believe that allowing employers, and private property owners, to prohibit weapons and firearms on their property is essential to their private property rights and ability to provide a safe work place for their employees and customers. However, the original amendment to Senate Bill 199 contained a provision that would have made concealed handgun license (CHL) holders who stored firearms in their vehicles a protected class under Ohio’s anti-discrimination statutes. The Ohio Chamber testified in opposition to this amendment for two reasons. First, it would have allowed parking lot carry. Second, this would have given CHL holders the same protections and remedies as those who are discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, gender, and other protected classes. In essence, this took a bad policy that we opposed and made it even worse.
Through significant lobbying and grassroots efforts from our member companies, we were able to explain the issues with this policy on both fronts—parking lot carry and making CHL holders a protected class. In the end, the legislature made changes to SB 199 that allow for parking lot carry but removed it from Ohio’s discrimination laws.
The provision (Pg. 49-50 of the bill) that will be enacted states that employers may not establish policies that prohibit employees who have a valid CHL from transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in the person’s privately owned motor vehicle if:
•firearm and all ammunition is locked within the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment; and
•the vehicle is in a place it is permitted to be.
Further, the provision grants businesses immunity from any civil lawsuit arising out of a person’s action involving a firearm or ammunition stored under this section. There was not a penalty for employer non-compliance included in the legislation. While this may seem good, it does leave the question open as to how an employee may go about enforcing any rights granted under this section. As we all know, uncertainty and unclear liability are not good for business.
While the Ohio Chamber opposes parking lot carry and believe that business owners are in the best position to evaluate their business needs and to make fair decisions that properly balance the competing interests of workplace safety and gun-owner rights, this is one issue where the result could have been significantly worse. We are continuing to gather more information on the ramifications of this legislation and next steps but, in the meantime, all employers should examine their handbooks and policies regarding firearms. The bill takes effect March 19th, 2017.