Saturday, May 03, 2008

Employer Parking Lots and Firearms in Texas

During this last session of the Texas legislature, several important pro-rights bills became law. Probably the most well known is SB 378, commonly referred to as the Texas Castle Doctrine Law. One of the changes to the Texas Penal Code enacted by SB 378 had to do with determining when deadly force is justified:

Sec. 9.32. DEADLY FORCE IN DEFENSE OF PERSON.

(a) A person is justified in using deadly force against another:

(1) if the actor would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.31; and when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:

(A) to protect the actor against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or

(B) to prevent the other's imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.

(b) The actor's belief under Subsection (a)(2) that the deadly force was immediately necessary as described by that subdivision is presumed to be reasonable if the actor:

(1) knew or had reason to believe that the person against whom the deadly force was used:

(A) unlawfully and with force entered, or was attempting to enter unlawfully and with force, the actor's occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment;

(B) unlawfully and with force removed, or was attempting to remove unlawfully and with force, the actor from the actor's habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment; or

(C) was committing or attempting to commit an offense described by Subsection (a)(2)(B);...
Note that Texas law equates an individuals vehicle with their habitation when it comes to justification for using deadly force.

HB 1815, the Motorist Protection Act, was another quality piece of Texas legislation that became law during the last session. HB 1815 basically, for the law abiding Texan, decriminalized the act of carrying a concealed handgun inside a vehicle.

So as you see, current Texas law allows all law abiding Texans to carry a handgun in their vehicle for the purpose of self defense. That is, of course, unless you are going to work and your employer happens to have a policy in place that forbids firearms in vehicles on their parking lots.

Another excellent piece of legislation that became Texas law was HB 991, CHL Confidentiality. HB 991 prevents news organizations, employers, estranged angry spouses, and pretty much any one else from determining the CHL status of an individual. What does this have to do with parking lots? I'll get to that in a second.

Last year there were three different bills introduced that attempted to remedy this situation. HB 992 (and SB 534, it's companion), HB 220, and HB 1037. The NRA and TSRA supported HB 992 and HB 220, I supported HB 1037.

HB 992 was, in my opinion, a very bad piece of legislation. First, it only pertained to CHL holders. That pretty much nullifies Castle Doctrine and the Motorist Protection Act for non CHL holders, and that is just not right. Second, it allows employers to develop a list of CHL holders.

Sec. 52.061. PENALIZING EMPLOYEE FOR ACCESS TO OR STORAGE OF A CONCEALED HANDGUN.

(a) A public or private employer may not discharge, discipline, or penalize in any manner an employee because the employee:

(1) applied for a license to carry a concealed handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code;

(2) holds a license under that subchapter; or

(3) transports or stores a handgun the employee is licensed to carry under that subchapter in the employee's locked motor vehicle in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area the employer provides for employees if the handgun is hidden from plain view and the employee has filed with the employee's immediate supervisor:

(A) a written statement signed by the employee stating that the employee:

(i) is licensed to carry a concealed handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code;

(ii) intends to store a concealed handgun in the employee's locked motor vehicle while parked in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area the employer provides for employees; and

(iii) may not remove the handgun from the employee's vehicle for any purpose other than self-defense in the immediate parking area; and

(B) a copy of the employee's license to carry a concealed handgun issued to the employee by the Department of Public Safety under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code.
That pretty much negates CHL Confidentiality. The three best pieces of legislation passed during the session would have been for naught if this bill had become law. I, for one, am very happy it never made it to the floor.

HB 220 was better, not great, but better. Again, this bill only pertained to CHL holders. Not much help for the majority of Texans. What made this bill better was the fact that it did not require a CHL holder to notify their employer of their CHL status. This bill also gave the employer an out:

A private employer may prohibit an employee from transporting or storing a concealed handgun in a vehicle in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area the employer provides for employees if:

(1) the parking lot, garage, or other area is completely surrounded by a gate and is not open to the public; and

(2) ingress to and egress from the parking lot, garage, or other area are monitored by security personnel.
HB 1037 was a good piece of legislation and deserved much more support than it received. It applied to all law abiding Texans, and it provided for both the employee and the employer.

For the employee:
(b) A public or private employer may not discharge, discipline, or penalize in any manner an employee because the employee transported or stored a firearm in the employee's locked motor vehicle, regardless of whether the vehicle was located on the employer's property.
For the employer:
(g) A public or private employer is not liable in a civil action for damages resulting from an occurrence involving the storage of a firearm in the motor vehicle of an employee.
Right now, during the off season (the Texas legislature is in session every other year), bills are being drafted for the next legislative session. A parking lot bill is going to be high on the list. Personally I think our efforts would be better served working on CHL access to campuses and doing away with 30.06, but that is neither here nor there. Getting a parking lot bill passed is a priority for this next session. Now is the time when we can have the best say in what that bill looks like.

If you are interested in this type of legislation, now is the time to contact the TSRA and your representatives and let them know what you think. Send them a link to this post if you wish. If we are going to have a law concerning firearms and employer parking lots, let us make it a good one.

1 comment:

william in fort worth said...

Good analysis. I don't want to have to disclose my CHL status to my boss, who may be a very vindictive anti-gunner. (I've suffered under them before....) And the old bill completely ignored the non-CHL guy who had his trucked packed with guns and ammo so he could leave for that hunting trip straight from work on Friday. Now, of course, we have the expanded right to carry in cars, which covers all of us. TSRA ignored these issue and supported the CHL-tagger bill.