Gun-Free Business Policies and Opt-Out Statutes

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What is an “Opt-Out Statute”?

In the context of gun control laws, opt out statutes allow business owners to enforce their own policy regarding the carrying of guns on business premises.  Opt-out statutes permit the business owner to take actions such as posting signs or issuing oral warnings to patrons who may be carrying concealed guns into their business. 

Generally speaking, most states allow citizens to carry concealed guns, so long as they have a valid permit.  Some states such as Arizona even allow persons to carry guns openly without a permit.  Opt-out statutes allow the business owner to “opt-out” of state gun policies. 

This in effect creates a private, gun-free zone in the area marked out by the business.  Other types of gun-free zones include school grounds, and correctional facilities, and establishments that serve alcohol. 

Can a Business Owner Exclude Me from the Premises Even if I Have a Carrying Permit?

A business owner generally has the right to exclude patrons from their premises if they refuse to follow the business’ gun policies.  This is because business owners typically have the right to refuse service to patrons for whatever reason, so long as it is not illegal or discriminatory.  However, the business owner must conform to the requirements that may be stated in the opt-out statute. 

For example, opt-out statutes often contain regulations as to the format and language for gun policy signs that are posted.  If the business owner fails to conform to these legal requirements, then the signs are without legal effect, and the business owner might even be subject to legal penalties.

The business owner needs to be sure that their policies do not violate other areas of law, such as discrimination laws or free speech rights. 

What if I Don’t Obey a “No Guns” Sign in a Business Establishment?

Violating a business establishment’s private gun policies can lead to severe legal consequences.  Even if the state or local jurisdictions allows guns in public places, business owners are sometimes allowed to enforce their own gun policies for safety purposes. 

Failing to abide by a business’ signs or policies can result in consequences like:

Which States Have Opt-Out Statutes?

Not all states allow businesses to opt out of concealed carry laws.  Only a handful of states allow opt-out statutes:  Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. 

However, gun laws often change more frequently than other areas of law.  If you are unsure of the carrying and gun permit laws in your area, you may wish to consult with a lawyer for clarification.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with Opt-Out Statutes and Policies?

If you have a legal dispute over the gun policies of a particular business, you may wish to contact a lawyer for advice.  A lawyer can help represent you in court if civil charges have been filed.  Or, if you are a business owner seeking to enforce a particular policy, a lawyer can help make sure that your policies follow the rules and regulations in your area. 

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Last Modified: 10-07-2011 01:59 PM PDT

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