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All in a Day's Work® - Insights on Labor & Employment Law

Buzz about the Wisconsin concealed carry bill

Everyone’s been talking about it.  After more than 16 years of debate on the issue, Wisconsin is one step closer to becoming the 49th state in the country to have some form of concealed carry legislation. With the state budget bill set for approval by Governor Walker this weekend, it is unlikely that the Governor will sign SB93, the Personal Protection Act, which is known as “concealed carry,” into law this week.  When the Governor will sign the bill, and whether he will do so with no line-item vetoes, is unknown, but it is clear that employers are anxious to know more about the bill and the impact it may have on their workplaces.  Following is a summary of the bill as we know it right now.

If signed by the Governor in its current form, the bill allows licensed individuals to go armed with a concealed weapon. Individuals who meet the following criteria are eligible to receive a license, which is valid for five years:

  • 21 years or older.
  • Wisconsin resident.
  • Not prohibited under federal or state law from possessing a firearm.
  • Pay a license fee.
  • Undergo a criminal background check.
  • Pass firearms safety training (with exemptions which include members of the military, retired law enforcement personnel and citizens who have already completed a hunter’s safety course).

The bill identifies certain location restrictions. The bill prohibits a licensee from carrying a concealed weapon in a police station, a jail, a secured mental health institution as defined by state law, a courthouse, and a place beyond the security checkpoint in an airport. However, the bill permits the presence of weapons in vehicles driven or parked at the above locations.  Concealed carry is permitted in certain other public buildings and in city and state parks, although governmental entities may opt to prohibit weapons from public buildings. If they choose to do so, they must post a sign alerting individuals to the prohibition.

The bill also identifies certain situations where there is immunity from liability.  Taking effect immediately upon publication is certain immunity from a disorderly conduct charge. A licensee may not be charged with disorderly conduct for loading, carrying, or going armed with a firearm, so long as there is an absence of criminal or malicious intent.  Private individuals who allow concealed carry on their property are immune from liability arising from that decision. Those wishing to prohibit concealed carry on their property, however, must post signs with such notification.

Perhaps most important to employers, the bill contains specific provisions for employers and immunity only under certain circumstances. Although an employer may prohibit an employee from carrying a concealed weapon during the course of the employee’s employment, the employer may not prohibit an employee from carrying a concealed weapon as a condition of employment. An employer that permits employees to carry a concealed weapon is immune from liability that might arise from that decision. However, an employer that prohibits employees from carrying concealed weapons does not enjoy such immunity.

Depending on when the Governor signs the bill, the bill will then take effect on the first day of the fourth month after the Secretary of State publishes it.  This means the bill could become law on October 1, 2011 or on November 1, 2011, depending on the publication date.

At this point, Wisconsin employers should understand the basics of the bill, dust off any concealed weapon policies they may now have in place, watch for the passage of the bill, and start to think about the safety versus immunity challenge the law poses to work establishments.  When the bill becomes law, we will provide you with an analysis of its specifics.

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