BUSINESS & SECURITY:
Three-D’s of Open Carry Laws for Businesses
By: Tegan Broadwater, Founder & COO - Tactical Systems Network, LLC - June 16, 2015
How will Open Carry laws affect your ability to control your business environment?
Someone enters your business. Your foyer is isolated and you have a receptionist assigned to man the desk and greet incoming clients, potential business, deliveries, etc. As this person approaches and begins to speak, it becomes apparent that they are there to express discontent. They are also armed with a handgun protruding from their right hip and secured to their belt. There is no badge to be found and they offer no identifying words to acknowledge the reason for carrying this weapon inside your place of business. Your receptionist tries to calm the angry person but is naturally intimidated. With no professional security personnel in place and the situation escalating, the receptionist tries to decide whether to draw their own weapon or call the police. How much responsibility do you want as an employer, for what could happen next? If the situation digresses, how will the culture at your place of business be affected? Even if the situation quells, does this interrupt the flow of business? How much will this cost? Will the parties survive? Will your business survive? Was this worth it?
Tactical Systems Network, LLC (TSN) provides high-level security consultancy and approaches this sensitive topic apolitically. Our obligation is to serve clients strategically, carefully, responsibly and tactically – not politically. Our message is succinct: Although we have strong recommendations regarding this subject in varying environments, we encourage you as business leaders to engage in discussions about this issue before it happens. This process is intended to assist you in properly preparing for what this law entails and in turn, provide a path for continued business success.
Initiate open discussions with your staff and explore options. There may be positives but the consequences of a negative event can still be irreparable. We recommend that your security provider, attorney and/or HR representative be present for these discussions as well to provide professional insight as suggestions and scenarios are proposed. As we at TSN often discuss with our clients, liability is a key factor often overlooked in cases where these types of considerations are made. We recognize that Texans want to carry, and that in some cases it could even affect the patronage of your business to prohibit such carrying of weapons on your property, but it is still an option. You maintain the freedom and control to DISCUSS, DELIBERATE AND DECIDE (3-D’s) what is best for you and your business’s culture, environment, security, liability exposure and clients.
According to a 2015 survey of the Texas Police Chief’s Association, nearly seventy-five percent of Texas police chiefs opposed open carry in Texas. We must agree with one point they cited: “It is going to be more difficult than ever before to discern the good guys from the bad.” Although citizens of Texas have been carrying concealed for some time, businesses for the most part have elected to ignore the topic rather than address it head-on and risk the controversy it may stir. Now with open carry approved, no one will be able to ignore the fact that there will be a number of citizens bringing weapons into their businesses. Some people will feel safer and some people will be alarmed. This must be brought into the conversation and addressed. I would also be remiss if I neglected to mention that the training standards and licensing requirements for carrying a personal weapon in Texas are deplorable. Although you might feel skilled and capable, we must look at the lowest common denominator when considering whether having barely-trained non-professional gun toters amidst your place of business is advantageous.
Employers should review as many potential scenarios as possible when considering this. If there is a security or police presence on your property already, they will also formulate plans of action for scenarios on their own. This is reasonable since their professional presence and training provide you with some separation from the liability that comes with any gun involved incident on your property (as long as you have simply vetted their capabilities and licensing).
The following applicable subjects should be addressed in your meetings with an assumption of having armed civilians and/or armed instigators involved that may or may not react properly, and may or may not react at all: workplace violence, terminations, criminal trespass, theft intervention, complaints, active shooter incidents, enforcement of house rules, disgruntled patrons, religiously or politically charged persons, etc.
If an employee un-holsters a weapon at your place of business, are you willing to back their decision? Did they threaten to use the weapon or discharge the weapon? Did their presentation of the weapon exacerbate the situation? Did they have legal standing to do so? If not, are you considering additional training for your employees? If so, are you willing to also accept the liability for the training provided to your employees since they are now accountable for the application of that training? As you can see, this can become quite complicated. Remember that the protection of your brand, your employees and your clients must remain paramount. We recommend you have professionals handle your security program, personnel and consultancy to help control your environment and ensure you mitigate undue liability, preserve the culture you have worked so hard to establish, and provide a safe space for you and your employees to work.
Controlling your own environment is always something we strive to achieve for our clients. With this law in effect, it is important to make serious considerations and move forward with confidence that this element of freedom and responsibility to choose how safely your business functions is not lost.
Once you have made a decision either way regarding this issue, we recommend you consult your business attorney, security professional and HR director to create and disseminate a written policy and if applicable, ensure signage prohibiting open carry weapons is sufficient and accurate.
About the Author: Tegan Broadwater is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Tactical Systems Network, LLC (TSN) – An executive-level security and investigations firm in Fort Worth, Texas. TSN’s clients range from Fortune 100 companies to private wealth individuals, schools and businesses. He is an ex-municipal law enforcement officer and the author of “LIFE IN THE FISH BOWL, The true story of how one white cop infiltrated and took down 41 of the nation’s most notorious Crips.”