The Trucking Law segment is a new monthly feature on Overdrive, in which we pose commonly asked questions from truckers and owner-operators to legal experts. In this installment, attorney Brad Klepper addresses truckers’ rights to carry firearms while on the job.
While the right to keep and bear arms is confirmed in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in essence each state will determine the extent to which the right applies within its borders. (Don’t blame me – it just is what it is.) For what it’s worth, state laws also are applicable to the legality of carrying a gun in your truck across state lines, which makes the practice as complicated as it sounds.
Many fleets have long prohibited bringing guns onto their property, claiming such a policy increases safety. Also, they simply felt that they should be able to control what is allowed on their private property.
In response, advocates of gun rights countered that the Second Amendment confirms the constitutional right to keep and bear arms and that they should have the right to carry firearms for self-defense. This issue eventually made its way to the courts.
One of the first cases to address the matter was Bastible v. Weyerhauser Company. The Tenth Circuit Court considered whether the right to bear arms granted by the Oklahoma Constitution trumped an employer’s right to ban firearms on company property. The court ruled that the right to possess firearms was not superior to the rights of a private property owner to regulate what is brought onto his property.
This holding created quite a stir. After this case was decided, the Oklahoma Legislature enacted a statute prohibiting employers from banning firearms in employee vehicles. The Bastible holding played a part in the growth of gun rights legislation.
During the past 20 years, numerous states have adopted “workplace protection” or “parking lot” laws that limit employers’ ability to prohibit firearms on their properties. These states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
The statues generally say an employer may not restrict a person from transporting or storing a firearm in a locked vehicle in any parking lot, parking garage or other designated area unless the possession of such firearm is prohibited by state or federal law. Some states also limit this employer prohibition to parking areas accessible by the public. Some states require that the firearm be stored in a locked compartment.
Other states tend to favor the rights of the property owner. Many times the language supporting the rights of the property owner can be found in the states’ concealed carry statute. These statutes often grant property owners the right to prohibit firearms on their premises and include language extending that right to all the property. This can be read to include parking lots and other public access areas. Many of these statutes have not been challenged in court, so it is unclear how well they would stand up.
What does this mean for the trucking industry? Drivers whose fleets have terminals in multiple states likely will be subject to different laws regarding the right to bring firearms onto a fleet’s property. So a simple “yes or no” answer to the original question isn’t possible. To make sure you are in compliance, work with your fleet, and know the applicable law of any state in which you drive.