In the wake of open carry by J. Blake Patton

May 23, 2012

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The Journal Record

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Oklahoma’s new “open carry” law goes into effect Nov. 1. Until the law is in force, Oklahomans can only speculate about its effects. One thing is certain: The new law sets limits on an individual’s ability to openly carry a firearm. The right to open carry in Oklahoma will not be absolute in nature.

Fortunately, under the law, Oklahoma business owners generally retain the right to exclude guns from their property if they so choose. This right, however, is also not absolute. An important exception to this right involves parking lots.

The new law reaffirms Oklahoma’s public policy that it is unlawful for a business owner to maintain a policy that prohibits individuals from keeping loaded guns in their cars while parked on any property set aside for any motor vehicle.

Specifically, it mandates that no person, property owner, tenant, employer, or business entity shall maintain, establish, or enforce any policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting any person, except a convicted felon, from transporting and storing firearms or ammunition in a locked motor vehicle, or from transporting and storing firearms or ammunition locked in or locked to a motor vehicle on any property set aside for any motor vehicle.

Business owners should take note of this law when crafting their personnel manuals and workplace policies. Any business owner maintaining a policy violating this law is subject to civil suit. This law covers employees and nonemployees, and its violation can be costly. If an employee of a business owner maintaining such a policy brings suit to enforce this law, he or she can potentially recover actual damages, court costs and attorney’s fees from the business owner.

In 2004, Whirlpool Corp. sued the state of Oklahoma in federal court, arguing that it was unconstitutional for the state to restrict its ability to exclude guns from its parking lots. The challenged law was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals case of Ramsey Winch v. Henry, 555 F.3d 1199 (10th Cir. 2009). The story of the Ramsey line of cases is the subject of a recent article entitled “Pro Gun Property Regulation: How the State of Oklahoma Controls the Property Rights of Employers Through Firearm Legislation,” 64 Okla. L. Rev. 81 (2012).

J. Blake Patton is an associate with Fellers Snider in its Oklahoma City office.
This article appeared in the May 23, 2012 issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. 
© The Journal Record Publishing Co.