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Will Tennessee Hold Property Owners Liable If They Establish “Gun Free” Zones?

The Tennessee General Assembly recently convened its annual legislative session. Each year brings a chance for legislators to consider new laws governing matters like personal injury. And if one state senator gets his way, some Tennessee businesses may soon face a unique form of liability if they choose to keep their premises free of guns.

Senate Bill Would Give Special Protections to Gun Owners

On January 15, Republican State Sen. Dolores Gresham introduced Senate Bill 1736. A similar bill was filed in the Tennessee House of Representatives a few days later. SB 1736 purports 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…to exercise control over governmental or private property.”

Tennessee is one of a number of states that permit individuals to carry concealed weapons on their person. A permit is necessary, but Tennessee is a “shall-issue” state, meaning anyone who meets certain legal requirements is automatically entitled to a permit. State officials generally cannot exercise discretion over who may carry a concealed weapon.

Even with a permit, a private property owner may still ban firearms from their own premises. But under Sen. Gresham’s SB 1736, any property owner who does so would assume “absolute custodial responsibility for the safety and defense” of any concealed weapons permit holder on the premises. This liability would “extend to the conduct of other invitees, trespassers, employees of the person or entity, vicious animals, wild animals, and defensible man-made and natural hazards.”

Basically, if a person has a concealed carry permit and is denied the ability to carry his or her gun onto private property, and is subsequently injured on said property, SB 1736 would allow the permit holder to sue the property owner for damages. But a non-permit holder injured under similar circumstances would not have any cause of action under SB 1736, although they could still file a personal injury lawsuit under the traditional standard of premises liability.

SB 1736 would also impose strict notice requirements on property owners who wish to make their premises “gun free” zones. The notice must inform concealed carry permit holders of their right to sue should they be injured on the property. If adopted by the General Assembly, SB 1736 would take effect on July 1, 2016.

Get Advice from a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer

Of course, this is just one of many proposals currently under consideration before Tennessee legislators. Many of these bills never see the light day after their initial introduction. But proposals like SB 1736 indicate how the law can significantly shift over the course of a single legislative session. That is why, if you have been injured through the negligence or fault of someone else, you need to work with an experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney who is up-to-date on the latest changes to the law. If you live in the Knoxville or Clinton areas and need to speak with an attorney about your situation, contact the offices of Fox & Farley right away.

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