Effective November 1, 2012, Oklahoma handgun owners will be permitted to carry their firearms more freely than before. Yet contrary to some popular belief, the state’s new “open carry” bill (SB 1733) does have limitations. Though some employees may believe they now will have the right to carry guns while at work, that’s incorrect, and employers should be prepared to respond immediately.
Currently, the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act provides for the issuance of handgun licenses to qualifying Oklahomans and spells out the parameters and restrictions governed by the Act. Under the new law amending the Act, which Governor Mary Fallin signed on May 15, those who have a valid handgun license now will have the right to carry a handgun, concealed or unconcealed (“open carry”), in many public locations beginning November 1.
However, there remain some important exceptions to that right. Licensed individuals are still prohibited from carrying handguns inside government buildings, on school property and in most of areas of college campuses, at sports venues, and at a few other specified facilities.
Another important provision that didn’t change under the new law is that Oklahoma businesses still have the right to prohibit any and all weapons in their buildings. That includes the right of employers to implement and enforce policies that prohibit employees who are licensed to carry from bringing a handgun, concealed or unconcealed, into the workplace. Keep in mind employees still have the right to store guns inside a locked vehicle on the employer’s parking lot.
Employers should anticipate that some employees may think they soon will be able to bring guns to work, so long as they are licensed. Now is the time to set the record straight. If you do not already have one in place, consider adopting and publishing a policy banning any and all weapons from your workplace. If you have a no-weapons rule in effect, now is an excellent time to remind your employees about the policy and to explain that the new law will not affect or change your no-weapons rule.