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Open Carry of Firearms and Small Business

No doubt you have seen coverage of various protests for and against open carry, and efforts by gun control advocacy groups to get businesses to ban carry of firearms by their patrons. An eatery in the aptly named town of Rifle in Colorado has gotten attention for itself by advertising its friendliness to open carry and having its waitresses carry as well. One story about Shooters Grill.

We have no interest in weighing in for or against this political issue. However, a small business should carefully consult its premises liability coverage before adopting any policies regarding its customer or especially its employees’ carry of firearms.

For employee carry, the legal issues are very clear. Commonly only employees of very high risk businesses will be found carrying firearms – businesses such a gun shops and gold/silver buyers are the most common. An employer is responsible for the negligence of its employees during the course and scope of their employment. Any negligent discharge or deliberate use of firearms by your employees will create high risk of legal liability.  Such policies should be explicitly coordinated with your insurance provider.

Carry by customers is an area of more ambiguous legal status. With some municipal exceptions, Colorado law allows the open carry of firearms in most public spaces. Private property owners are allowed to forbid such, but until an individual refuses to leave when confronted, it is not a criminal offense. Some gun rights activists assert that a private property owner that forbids carry should be liable should an unarmed individual be the victim of crime on the premises but there is no such legal rule generally accepted.

A business that wishes to make an explicit prohibition – or invitation – of lawful carry by its customers should also discuss these issues with their legal counsel and insurance provider.

Posted in Business Formation, Civil Litigation, Premises Liability.