A new piece of legislation introduced in Georgia may confound some security directors wanting to keep guns fully out of their facilities and off their campuses.
The proposed bill, GA House bill 998, which has been reviewed and rewritten/substituted by the House Committee on Public Safety, allows licensed gun owners to legally bring weapons into the parking lot as long as the weapons stay locked in the vehicle. The bill also would give the person or business owner of the parking lot civil immunity from the presence and/or use of the gun (as long as they weren't involved in the use of the weapon). The law is specifically written to supersede and repeal any previous legislation or company policies that would have prohibited bringing a weapon in a car onto a business' campus.
The issue of whether a company can prohibit a gun from being secured in a vehicle and parked in a company parking lot is one that has come up recently in Oklahoma, which also decided that companies can't block licensed gun owners from securely storing their guns in their cars while parked on company lots.
When the Oklahoma law was proposed and made effective, a number of Oklahoma companies, including Whirlpool, ConocoPhillips and Williams Cos. sought an injunction against the law, citing OSHA "hazard-free workplace" concerns. That lawsuit, however, has not been resolved and as of early February was still active.
The Oklahoma issue follows an earlier instance in 2002 when workers form the Weyerhaeuser were fired for violating a company prohibition of employees keeping guns in their parked cars. The 2004 Oklahoma law responded to the Weyerhaeuser firings and was written in such a way that it would prevent workers from being fired if they were to legally carry a gun (secured, registered, licensed) in their vehicle.
The issue has been raised among members of Atlanta's ASIS chapter, but as of Feb. 22, no chapter decision had been made in favor or against the law. As the executive committee noted in a publication to members, the issue is one that can create "spirited" debate, especially as it mixes security concerns with second amendment privileges.
The full text of the proposed legislation HB 998 is printed below, as it stands on Feb. 22, 2006:
The House Committee on Public Safety offers the following substitute to HB 998:
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
To amend Part 3 of Article 4 of Chapter 11 of Title 16 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to carrying and possession of firearms, so as to provide a short title; to provide for legislative intent; to provide a definition; to provide that it shall be lawful for any person who may lawfully possess firearms to park a motor vehicle on any property set aside for the parking of a motor vehicle when the person is lawfully transporting and storing a firearm or firearms in the motor vehicle and the firearm or firearms are locked in or locked to the motor vehicle; to provide for certain civil immunity for occurrences which result from, are connected with, or are incidental to the use of a firearm which is being lawfully transported and stored in a locked motor vehicle on any property set aside for the parking of motor vehicles; to provide for an exception to such immunity; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA:
Part 3 of Article 4 of Chapter 11 of Title 16 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to carrying and possession of firearms, is amended by adding a new Code Section 16-11-135 to read as follows:
(a) This Code section shall be known and may be cited as the 'Georgia's Self-Defense Act.'
(b) It is the intent of this Code section to reinforce and protect the right of each law-abiding citizen to enter and exit any parking lot, parking facility, or space used for the parking of motor vehicles while such person is lawfully transporting or storing a firearm or firearms in the motor vehicle and the firearm or firearms are locked in or locked to the motor vehicle, to avail himself or herself of temporary or long-term parking or storage of a motor vehicle, and to prohibit any infringement of the right to lawful possession of firearms when such firearms are being transported or stored in a vehicle for a lawful purpose. It is not the intent of this Code section to repeal any existing Code section or federal law, rule, or regulation which, by law, prohibits the possession or transportation of weapons or firearms on public or private property. This Code section shall not apply to an electric generating facility owned or operated by a public utility.
(c) As used in this Code section, the term 'motor vehicle' means any automobile, truck, minivan, sports utility vehicle, motorcycle, motor scooter, or any other vehicle.
(d) It shall be lawful for any person who may lawfully possess firearms to park a motor vehicle on any property set aside for the parking of a motor vehicle, whether or not such property is designated as a parking lot, parking facility, or parking space, when the person is lawfully transporting or storing a firearm or firearms in the motor vehicle and the firearm or firearms are locked in or locked to the motor vehicle; provided, however, that a property owner may prohibit persons from possessing or storing firearms in motor vehicles on such owner's property if such owner provides and maintains a system for the checking, storing, and securing of such firearms during the time such persons are present on the owner's property and such owner gives notice of such prohibition and the availability of the system for checking, storing, and securing of such firearms while on such property. This subsection shall be liberally construed in favor of the lawful use, ownership, and possession of firearms and other weapons, including lawful self-defense.
(e) No person or business entity shall be liable in any civil action for any occurrence which results from, is connected with, or is incidental to the use of a firearm which is being lawfully transported or stored in a locked motor vehicle on any property set aside for the parking of motor vehicles as provided in subsection (d) of this Code section, unless such person or owner of the business entity commits a criminal act involving the use of such firearm or unless the person or owner of the business entity had prior knowledge or, in the exercise of ordinary care, should have had prior knowledge that the person using such a firearm presented a threat of harm to others on the business premises.
(f) Nothing in this Code section shall be construed to create a duty of inspecting motor vehicles or otherwise give rise to civil liability against a business entity or property owner or possessor as a result of any occurrence which results from, is connected with, or is incidental to the use of a firearm being transported and stored in a motor vehicle whether such transport and storage is lawful or not. The business entity or property owner or possessor is entitled to presume any such transport or storage is lawful."
All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are repealed.