On Thursday, March 14, 2013, Governor Bill Haslam signed a new gun law for our state, which will go into effect on July 1.

The new law allows those with a lawful handgun carry permit to transport/carry the gun and/or ammunition for the same onto any premises in their own personal vehicle and to then to store/leave it there as long as (1) the vehicle is lawfully parked, (2) locked, and (3) the gun is stored out of sight (and specifically, in the trunk, glove compartment, or other locked internal or securely-affixed external container if the person is not in the vehicle).  [Note that federal law, which trumps state law, does not allow guns to be carried onto school premises.]

The effect of the new law will be interesting to see, as the law also expressly allows property owners (or those who otherwise “control or manage” the same) to keep in place or make new rules prohibiting gun possession on their property.

One significant question relates to the impact of this new law on an employer that has or adopts a policy prohibiting guns on its property.  The language of the law and the testimony during deliberations concerning it in the State House of Representatives both suggest that it simply eliminates criminal sanctions for carry permit holders who possess weapons on public or private property where such policies are posted.  In a memorandum of intent letter attached to the new law, the sponsors of it in the State Senate stated that they do not wish for this new law to change the “at-will nature of employment in Tennessee.”  However, they also commented that, in their view, terminating an employee solely for being found to have a gun in his/her locked vehicle while at work would be a violation of the intent of this law.  Employers that have or wish to adopt policies prohibiting the possession of guns on their property by carry permit holders thus will need to carefully consider this issue when enforcing the same against their employees.

On a final note, the new law also expressly releases property owners from civil liability for assaults and other violent or criminal activity which is committed by others using guns on their premises.  Property owners also are not responsible for the theft of a gun or ammunition which is carried/stored in accordance with the new law.  These are certainly helpful protections for employers and property owners, but thoughtful consideration should be given regarding how to maximize your protections under this new law.