Workplace Violence, Firearm Prohibitions, and the New Gun Rights
24 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2021
Date Written: October 1, 2020
Workplace violence is surprisingly common – some estimates suggest there are more than one million incidents per year, including several hundred workplace homicides and suicides. Mass shootings and active shooter rampages also occur at places of employment. In spite of the prevalence of workplace gun violence, and partly in response to it, legislatures and some courts have begun to restrict employers’ ability to prohibit firearms at the workplace facility – especially in employee parking lots, but in some cases, within the workplace building itself. Employees have growing legislative protection and even encouragement to bring guns to work, and customers or patrons may also have enhanced rights to bring guns into businesses or offices that they visit, regardless of the wishes of employers, managers, or shift supervisors. This trend coincides with a larger trend of liberalized laws about carrying concealed or openly displayed firearms; in addition, increasing numbers of gun owners are now carrying handguns outside the home. In half the states, obtaining a concealed carry permit exempts the permittee from undergoing any subsequent federal background checks when purchasing a firearm from a dealer, and in most states, private person-to-person sales do not require background checks, meaning employers cannot rely on regulatory controls to screen unstable or discharged employees, or upset patrons, from purchasing firearms. At the same time, unarmed co-workers, supervisors, and business customers or clients often feel threatened, intimidated, or even bullied by the presence of firearms in their immediate work environment, especially in the wake of highly-publicized mass shootings at workplaces, including stores, schools, and office spaces. The presence of firearms can have a chilling effect on employee communication and interactions and can alter the dynamics of relationships within a workplace, such as declining romantic overtures or responding to teasing by an armed co-worker. This paper will explore the recent legislative and judicial developments in this area (forcing employers to permit guns on workplace grounds or within facilities), the new trend for employers to provide active shooter response training or purchase active shooter insurance policies, the policy arguments and trade-offs regarding gun-free workplaces versus employee gun rights, and the need for employers to reduce the risk of violence, and especially lethal violence, in the workplace.
Keywords: guns, Second Amendment, violence, assault, employment, workplace, rights, firearms
JEL Classification: K1, K10, K14, K23, K39, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation