Tennessee Senate Says “No Guns Allowed” Signs Can Hurt People Too- and Businesses Who Post Them Will Be Held Responsible For Injury-Related Incidents

Guns, gun rights, gun safety, and really any discussion about the role of firearms in our society have become a bit of a “third rail” topic in recent years.  While we here at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm will keep our personal stances and politics to ourselves, there is an important issue in the news right now.

A controversial new bill is rolling through the Tennessee Legislature sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville.  Senate Bill 1736 allows any Tennessean with a valid gun permit to sue a property owner in the event of injury or death, provided the incident occurred while in a gun-free zone.

The Bill helps business owners understand that by banning concealed carry on their property they undertake liability for concealed permit holders who are on the property unarmed. Business owners are responsible “to protect the gun owner from any incidents that occur with any ‘invitees,’ trespassers, and employees found on the property, as well as vicious and wild animals and ‘defensible manmade and natural hazards”

Under Gresham’s bill, a concealed permit holder would have up to two years to file a suit after being injured, with the following provisions:

         the plaintiff had to be authorized to carry a gun at the time of the incident

         the plaintiff was prohibited from carrying a firearm because of the gun-free sign the property owner was not required to post by state or federal law but was posted by choice of the defendant

         the bill does not cover individuals without a concealed carry permit

For example, if a Tennessee grocery store bans guns on its property and a black bear or wild hog kills or injures a person who otherwise would be carrying his or her gun, the gun owner would be allowed to sue the property owner if a newly introduced bill became law.  The same would be true if a convenience store robbery results in injury or death to a weapon-less concealed carry permit holder when the store had made the decision to be gun-free.

“It is the intent of this section to balance the right of a handgun carry permit holder to carry a firearm in order to exercise the right of self-defense and the ability of a property owner or entity in charge of the property to exercise control over governmental or private property,” the bill states.

Point and Counterpoint

While it is common knowledge among most legally permitted gun owners already, the gun lobby is continuing to drive home the message in advertising, news, and social media that those “no guns allowed” signs carry very little weight under the law and that they are to be thought of as a rule —not the law.   As long as you can legally carry a firearm, you can carry it whether it’s concealed on your person, or openly carry it.  Many are concerned that they can face criminal penalties resulting in arrest if they are caught either open carrying or concealed-carrying a handgun in public.  Businesses do still hold the right to refuse service to anyone however, an individual can face charges while carrying if they are asked to leave and refuse.

Proponents of the Bill have also speculated that “no guns allowed” signs actually invite criminal activity, rather than detour it, noting that if a criminal sees the sign in the door way he or she will know that most likely no one inside has a firearm to defend themselves.

Some opponents note that this is of course a Republican-backed Bill, and goes against true, classic Republican values. While the classic Republican/conservative ideology calls for more personal freedom and less government interference or limitations on the rights of people and businesses, it can be argued that this bill is designed to punish businesses, or at least serve as a chilling effect against businesses that choose to make their establishment a gun-free zone; that is, that this Bill is a governmental intrusion on the rights of a business owner for the sake of placing Second Amendment rights of some above other rights guaranteed to all.

Those businesses against the bill argue that permit-carrying gun owners subject themselves and others to the potential of negligent handling, causing unintended consequences like accidental misfire and a host of other general safety/liability issues concerning the potential of a gun being fired under their roof.

Currently, this bill has already passed in the Senate and is being held in House for a review and a vote before it hits the Governor’s desk.   If the Bill becomes law, business owners will need think twice before posting gun-free zone signs in their establishments.  Will they be willing to take on the added liability?

What are your thoughts?  Do you think this Bill is fair or unfair to businesses who choose to exercise their right to prohibit guns on their private property?

At the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we help people who suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of a person or companies negligence.  If you have been injured or if you’re trying to put the pieces together after a loved one has been killed, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a skilled personal injury attorney. We battle the big insurance companies to get you the justice you and your family deserve.  Our Nashville, Hendersonville and Knoxville offices are ready to fight for you! (615) 425-2500