Concealed carry law raises liability concerns for business owners

March 20, 2014 (CHICAGO)

As the first 13,000 permits are arriving, no-guns-allowed signs are going up some at businesses in Chicago and across the state. But the I-Team has found that the new state law fails to address who has liability if there is an incident in a gun-free zone.

"You don't know who is coming into your store if you are open to the public, no matter what you are doing and no matter how safe your neighborhood is, anyone could walk in and I'd like them to know they are not welcome," said Chris Connelly, manager, Reckless Records.

Connelly is one of many Chicago business owners and managers who are prohibiting guns. His Wicker Park record store and this family-owned pharmacy post the now familiar no-guns-allowed signs.

"We just don't one coming here. There is no reason to come into a neighborhood pharmacy with a gun," said Ozzie Feliciano, owner, Deitch Pharmacy.

Unlike other states, Illinois' law lacks an immunity provision protecting local business owners from liability. 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.

"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.

BOMA, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, recently surveyed it's members who represent 80% of the city's downtown commercial office space. One-third responded. Of those, nearly half have chosen to prohibit guns within their buildings, mostly due to 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.

Public buildings and many public places in Illinois are automatically gun-free zones under the law, but there are thousands of business establishments fending for themselves. Those now legally eligible to carry a concealed weapon feel the law should stand as is.

"They don't like the fact that Illinois is so restrictive. They think they should be able to carry their firearms in more places and I get calls on that every day," said Richard Pearson, executive director, Illinois State Rifle Association.

Those with concealed carry licenses go through state background checks and training to qualify and say they aren't a safety risk. Meanwhile, those minding the store grapple over a new risk they've inherited with the concealed carry law.

"Yes it's absolutely a concern. Excuse the pun but it could all backfire on us," said Connelly.

In the past few weeks, more than a dozen pieces of legislation have been introduced in Springfield to change or reverse parts of the Concealed Carry Act. One bill would ban guns from private property unless a sign was posted explicitly allowing them. That is backed by the Illinois chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group formed after Sandy Hook that supports the 2nd amendment and stronger gun laws.

Additional information:
Illinois Concealed Carry law:
Illinois Rifle Association:
BOMA Chicago:

Copyright © 2024 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.