Many are getting used to commonly seeing the signs with the no gun symbol posted on the doors of businesses. But what happens if there is violence in one of these buildings? Unfortunately, Illinois concealed-carry gun law fails to address who has liability if there is an incident in a gun-free business zone.
Unlike other states, Illinois’ law lacks an immunity provision protecting local business owners from liability, as a personal injury lawyer can explain. So if a sign prohibiting guns is posted at the entrance of a building or business, a person brings in a gun anyway and an incident occurs, the building and/or business can be held liable. Patrons and employees could argue that they didn’t have the opportunity to protect themselves because they couldn’t carry their own gun. The reverse is also true. If the building or business owner allows guns and an incident occurs, they could be sued by employees and patrons because guns were allowed.
This Catch-22 in the law, frustrates many business owners. “I wish we had some guidance in another way but unfortunately there will be an incident, it will be litigated,” said Michael Cornicelli, Exec VP of BOMA. the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago. BOMA recently surveyed its membership, who represent 80% of the city’s downtown commercial office space. In the 30% of members who responded, nearly half have chosen to prohibit guns within their buildings. The number one reason given for this choice is concerns about safety. Nearly three-quarters said they are concerned about liability and legal issues.
“We would like to see a provision added that addresses the liability issues. Other jurisdictions, Wisconsin for example, provide that if a building chooses to allow conceal carry or prohibit it, that building owner, building manager’s liability for any resulting incident is not any greater for that choice than in the absence of that choice,” said Cornicelli.
Under some state laws, including Illinois law, public places are automatically gun-free zones, but residences and private businesses have a choice on the matter. Those now legally eligible to carry a concealed weapon feel the law should stand as-is.