How concealed gun law may impact businesses

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 2, 2013 3:36 p.m. CDT

The Illinois House and Senate have been working on several versions of what would become state law regarding the carrying of handguns in public as well as on privately owned property. Businesses and landlords will need to understand the legislation to ensure they are aware of their rights to permit or restrict firearms on their premises, as well as to ensure they do not violate Conceal & Carry (C&C) gun law.

The recent C&C legislative effort arose from the federal appellate court’s ruling in Moore v. Madigan. The court in Moore invalidated Illinois’ general prohibition on carrying handguns in public but afforded the state legislature 180 days to enact an appropriate law to permit some form of C&C. Illinois is the only state that does not currently have a C&C law. If the Illinois General Assembly fails to enact C&C legislation by June 9, then Illinois would revert to what is deemed “Constitutional Carry,” meaning there would be no law prohibiting the carriage of otherwise legal handguns. Attorney General Madigan is appealing to the Supreme Court for more time to enact legislation, but there is no guarantee the Supreme Court will hear the issue, much less grant an extension.

While two legislative efforts have already been voted down, the House was only seven votes short of approving a C&C bill in recent weeks so there is good reason to believe that the General Assembly is narrowing in on a passable version of C&C legislation. Recent discussions have primarily involved whether Cook County would have separate, more restrictive C&C licensing procedures from the rest of the state.

One area of concern for business owners is whether employees or customers will be able to bring firearms onto business property. The versions proposed so far would allow a business owner to restrict firearms from being brought into a place of business. However, the question remains whether the presumption will be that a licensee can bring a firearm onto private property without express permission, or whether it will be presumed that a licensee can only bring a firearm onto private property with express permission. If it’s the former, which was the language proposed in the nearly successful House bill, any business that does not want firearms on its property would have to post “conspicuous notice,” such as signs, so a licensee knows that firearms are not allowed, or else the licensee would not break any law by carrying a handgun onto the business property.

According to the same proposed language, even if the business restricts firearms on its premises, licensees would still be allowed to bring handguns in vehicles onto the business premises, such as to a parking lot, although they would have to secure firearms in their vehicles out of plain sight.

As it pertains to employees of a business, the same rules generally apply. The best practice would be to implement or review a written policy that specifically addresses the business’s desired policy regarding guns in the workplace, although employees would still be able to bring and store firearms in their vehicles, if the recently proposed language prevails.

It must be separately noted that all proposed legislation seeks to restrict firearms from being brought to certain locations. For example, the bills proposed thus far agree that firearms cannot be brought to an establishment that derives the majority of its income from alcohol sales, even if left secured in parked vehicles.

Another area of concern is for commercial and residential landlords. Depending on the final language adopted, a land owner or landlord may not be permitted to restrict a tenant from utilizing a valid C&C license on the leased property. Under the language of the proposal that nearly passed, lease language would have to be updated to make sure the landlord is not unlawfully prohibiting possession of firearms as a condition of the lease agreement.

There are, of course, several other considerations that will accompany whatever is ultimately contained in an Illinois concealed firearm law. Because new legislation is imminent, however, businesses are well-advised to review policies in anticipation of the forthcoming changes, contemplate desired restrictive signage, and seek legal advice to ensure compliance with the law.

• Brad Stewart is an attorney with Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle in Crystal Lake. Stewart was valedictorian of his law school class and devotes most of his practice to corporate and local government law. He can be reached at bstewart@zrfmlaw.com.

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