Conflicting opinions given by Legal Services and Tennessee Attorney General
On Jan. 13, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey received a legal opinion from the Tennessee General Assembly’s Office of Legal Services regarding the “guns in trunks” law passed by the Tennessee Legislature in 2013. The legal opinion found that it was not necessary for the Tennessee Legislature to clarify with new legislation that an employee could not be discharged for having a gun in a locked vehicle if the employee had a concealed handgun carry permit, because the law already provided this legal protection to employees.
This legal opinion conflicts with the opinion provided by the Tennessee Attorney General on May 28, 2013.
In that opinion, the Attorney General concluded that, even after the “guns in trunks” law was enacted, a Tennessee employer could still prohibit employees from having guns in their locked vehicles on the employer’s premises and the employer could terminate the employment of employees violating the employer’s no weapons policy. Neither of these opinions are binding upon employers or the courts.
On Feb. 5, the Tennessee Senate rejected an amendment to the “guns in trunks” aw that would have explicitly prohibited employers from discharging employees with a handgun permit who have a gun in their locked vehicles at work. Unless and until the Tennessee Legislature further addresses the issue through new legislation, it will likely be up to the Tennessee courts to decide this question of whether an employer can lawfully discharge an employee with a carry permit for having gun in a vehicle at work.
Some Tennessee employers continue to maintain and enforce their no weapons policies, in reliance on the Attorney General’s opinion. Other employers
have added an exception to their policy for handgun permit holders in recognition of the “guns in trunks law.” Yet other employers have dropped their no weapons policies entirely. Until the courts rule on the issue, employers cannot know for sure what they are legally entitled to do with regard to guns on their premises. Hopefully, this uncertainly will be removed by the courts or the legislature in the not too distant future.
Jeffrey G. Jones is a regional managing member for Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones PLLC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.