Can my employer prohibit me from keeping a gun in my car at work?

Question:

I have a license to carry a gun, and I bring one in the car with me on my drive to and from work. My commute takes me through some rough areas of town, and I feel safer knowing that I can defend myself if I run into trouble. I leave the gun locked in the trunk of my car, inside a lock box, while I'm at work. The company I worked for recently revamped their workplace violence policies and announced that no employee could have any type of weapon at work. Does this apply to the gun in my locked car in the parking lot? Do I have to even tell them about it?

Answer:

Guns at work have become a very hot topic in recent years. Media coverage of workplace shootings by current or former employees have led many employers to take a closer look at their policies and procedures for handling workplace violence. Prohibiting employees from bringing weapons to work is among the many commonsense precautions many employers have taken.

That's not the end of the story, though. Many people have strong feelings about their right to bear arms, which they believe should not end at the office door. Powerful pro-gun organizations agree and have successfully convinced a number of states to pass laws that give employees more freedom to carry their weapons to the workplace.

These laws, often called "guns in the parking lot" laws, attempt to strike a balance between the employer's desire to maintain safety and the employee's desire to protect himself or herself with a firearm. In states that have these laws, an employee has the right to keep a gun in a personal vehicle in the parking lot, as long as it's locked up and secured in a way that prevents others from getting to it. Employers remain free to prohibit guns within the actual confines of the workplace, but not in the workplace parking lot, even if it is company-owned and operated.

As for telling your employer, in some states employers can require employees to give notice that they carry guns in their vehicles. Employers may also require employees to provide proof of their right to carry a gun (such as a state license). These laws have been challenged by employees claiming that having to give notice is an unjustified restraint on their constitutional right to bear arms. So far, however, these arguments have not carried the day in court. If your state allows employers to make this request, you will likely have to comply with it.

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