Constitutional laws are most commonly associated with certain fundamental rights, including:
- Equal protection;
- The right to bear arms;
- Freedom of religion; and
- The right to free speech.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically acknowledges the right of citizens to bear arms. The precise meaning of this phrase is still hotly debated and the Supreme Court has not yet defined exactly what this phrase means when put into practice.
The Second Amendment provides that, “[a] well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the right to bear arms applies to the states.
This means that the constitutionality of state gun control laws across the United States are being questioned. It is important to note that these laws must be processed through the judicial system to determine the specifics of their constitutionality.
Is There an Individual Right to Bear Arms?
Numerous states have created and implemented an individual right to bear arms in their state constitutions pursuant to the Second Amendment. All but 6 states currently have a constitutional right to bear arms.
Those states states that do not have a constitutional right to bear arms include:
- New jersey; and
- New York.
It is important to note that although a state may permit a citizen to carry a firearm, there are typically limitations and regulations which are associated with that right. For example, if an employer prohibits guns in the workplace but laws regarding guns in the parking lot may allow employees to keep their firearms in their personal vehicles so long as the weapon is secured.
There are some employers that require employees to provide notice that they carry a firearm in their vehicle or to provide proof of their legal right to carry the firearm, for example, a state permit.
An employee will most likely be required to comply with these types of requests which are made by their employers.
What Are Gun Control Laws?
Gun control laws are policies that regulate the possession and purchase of firearms, including:
- The specific types of guns that may be owned;
- Waiting periods required for purchase; and
- The classification of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or owning firearms.
As previously noted, the right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. State and federal laws allow individuals to purchase and possess firearms.
There are, however, different state and federal laws which regulate the possession and use of firearms. Gun owners, collectors, and dealers are all required to follow these laws if they want to possess a firearm or conduct business selling firearms.
Examples of shared aspects to gun control laws include:
- Waiting periods: Many states require an amount of time to pass between the time that an individual purchases a firearm and the time in which they can actually take possession of the firearm;
- These laws are largely intended to discourage rash or spur-of-the-moment crimes by imposing these cooling off periods; and
- Background checks: A background check is mandatory in certain states before an individual is permitted to purchase or own a gun. An individual may also be required to complete a gun safety class.
What is the Punishment for Violating Gun Control Laws?
If an individual violates gun control laws, it may result in consequences including:
- A prison term of more than 1 year;
- Considerably heavy monetary fines;
- Parole or probation periods; or
- The complete loss of gun ownership rights, under specific circumstances.
What is an Opt-Out Statute?
Opt-out statutes enacted in the context of gun control laws, allow a business owner to enforce their own policy regarding the carrying of firearms on business premises. Opt-out statutes allow a business owner to take actions including posting signs or issuing oral warnings to patrons who may be carrying concealed guns into their business.
In general, the majority of states allow a citizen to carry concealed guns, as long as they have a valid permit. Certain states, such as Arizona, even allow individuals to openly carry guns without a permit.
An opt-out statute allows a business owner to opt-out of the state gun policies. This, in effect, creates a private, gun-free zone in the area which is marked out by the business.
There are also other types of gun-free zones, such as:
- School grounds;
- Correctional facilities; and
- Establishments which serve alcohol.
Can a Business Owner Exclude Me from the Premises Even if I Have a Carrying Permit?
Business owners generally have the right to exclude individuals from their premises if they refuse to follow the gun policies of the business. This is because a business owner usually has the right to refuse service to patrons for whatever reason, as long as it is not illegal or discriminatory.
Business owners, however, are required to conform to the requirements that may be stated in the opt-out statute. For example, many opt-out statutes contain regulations regarding the format and language of the gun policy signs which are posted.
If a business owner fails to conform to these legal requirements, the signs do not have legal effect and the business owner may be subject to legal penalties. A business owner should ensure that their policies do not violate other areas of the law, such as free speech rights or discrimination laws.
What if I do not Obey a No Guns Sign in a Business Establishment?
The violations of a business’ private gun policy may lead to severe legal consequences. Even if the local jurisdiction or state allows individuals to have guns in public places, a business owner may be allowed to enforce their own gun policies for safety purposes.
Failure to abide by a the signs or policies of a business may result in consequences, including:
- Trespassing charges: If a business owner requests that a patron leave because they are carrying a firearm, the patron may be held liable for trespassing if they refuse to leave the area. Trespassing charges may be more serious if the individual is carrying a deadly weapon, such as a gun; and
- Loss of carrying privileges: In certain states, violating a business’ policies can result in the offender having their gun carrying permit revoked.
Which States have Opt-Out Statutes?
Not every state allows businesses to opt out of concealed carry laws. There are only a handful of states which permit opt-out statutes, including:
- New Mexico;
- South Carolina; and
Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with Opt-Out Statutes and Policies?
Gun laws typically change more frequently than other areas of law. If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to carrying guns or gun permit laws in your area, it may be helpful to consult with a government lawyer for clarification.
If you have a legal dispute with a business regarding their gun policies, your lawyer can represent you in court if civil charges have been filed against you. If you are a business owner seeking to enforce a particular policy, your lawyer can help ensure that your policies follow the rules and regulations in your area.