As of July 1, 2013 Tennessee municipalities will no longer have the authority to prohibit a handgun carry permit holder from storing a firearm in a vehicle parked in a city parking lot.
This change is due to the passage of House Bill 118/Senate Bill 142, commonly referred to as the “guns in parking lots bill,” that has now been signed by the Governor.
This legislation allows a Tennessee handgun carry permit holder to transport and store a firearm and ammunition in the permit holder’s privately-owned vehicle while on a public or private parking area under certain circumstances. First, the permit holder’s vehicle must be in a location where it is legally permitted to be. Second, the firearm or ammunition must be out of view and locked in a trunk, glove box, interior of the vehicle, or in a container securely affixed to the vehicle.
These provisions clearly apply to public lots at city halls, schools and other municipal buildings, as well as private businesses. Single-family detached residences, however, are excluded, whether occupied by the owner or a tenant. All property owners may still post signage to prohibit firearms on the property; however, such prohibitions would not apply to handgun carry permit holders.
A property owner, including an employer, is provided civil immunity for any injury or death arising out of a firearm in the parking lot pursuant to the bill. Likewise, the property owner cannot be held responsible for the theft of a firearm or ammunition in the parking lot.
In addition to civil liability, employers expressed concerns as to whether this law will affect Tennessee’s employment-at-will status. While claims to the contrary were made curing legislative hearings, the sponsors of the bill have submitted a letter of intent stating that an employer who fires an employee solely for possessing a handgun pursuant to this bill may be subject to a claim for retaliatory discharge. Furthermore, the sponsors claim this does not impact the employment-at-will doctrine in Tennessee.