Georgia General Assembly Bills 826 and 60 were signed by Governor Nathan Deal April 22 and 23, respectively, and represent the latest wave of legislation addressed to gun ownership and possession in Georgia. HB 60, or the “Safe Carry Protection Act” has been referred to by critics as the “Guns Everywhere” Law, notably expanding the universe of authorized places licensed owners may carry guns to include churches, bars, and, to a limited extent, schools and airports. The bill also limits law enforcement’s ability to demand individuals’ proof of license to when that person is committing a crime.
While these changes do expand the rights of licensed Georgia gun owners and are expected to prompt leaders, owners and operators of these establishments and organizations to consider their policies on possession of weapons on their premises by the general public, they actually have little effect on existing employer policies on guns in the workplace, since the new law does not restrict “property owners or persons in legal control of private property through a lease, rental agreement, licensing agreement, contract, or any other agreement to control access to the private property” from banning firearms from their property.
A existing Georgia statute passed in 2008 speaks more directly to that issue, barring employers from searching or accessing the locked, privately owned vehicles of employees or invited guests on an employer’s parking lot, or requiring employees with Georgia weapons carry licenses to agree not to bring their guns into the parking lot if they are kept locked and out of sight within an enclosed compartment of their personal vehicles.
Searches may still be conducted (1) by certified law enforcement officers pursuant to valid search warrants or valid warrantless searches, (2) of vehicles owned or leased by an employer; (3) to prevent an immediate threat to human health, life, or safety, (4) when an employee consents to search by licensed private security officers based on probable cause that the employee unlawfully possesses employer property; (5) if the employer has a secure parking lot with a gate and security, with all vehicles subject to inspection, (6) at any correctional facility, (7) at any electric generation facility, (8) on the premises of any U.S. defense contractor near bases or airports, (9) of employees restricted from having guns due to disciplinary action, (10) where otherwise allowed under state or federal law, (11) at gas, water, law enforcement, and other facilities considered vital, or (12) at any temporary lot.
All Georgia employers and business owners should ensure that any rules addressing employee possession of firearms in the workplace are crafted to comply with established Georgia law on searches of employee vehicles. Additionally, employers and leaders in the newly affected sectors should take steps to establish a policy on firearms applicable to members of the public, being mindful of how this policy could affect employees. Taking time to consider your industry, workforce, and customer base can help ensure the compatibility of your firearms policies and in turn promote a safer and more productive workplace.