Pushing the Limits of Premise Liability and Gun Safety – SB 1736

Gun control and gun rights are a hot topic of political debate in cities and communities throughout the country, and Tennessee is not immune to such controversy.  In the wake of increasing gun violence and a rise in gun-related deaths, proponents on both sides dispute whether the route to improved public safety involves stricter gun controls or greater gun freedom.  In Tennessee, at least one legislator proposes that all individuals should be entitled to protect themselves through the purchase and use of a gun, and those who would act to impede such freedoms should be held liable for any death or injury that may result.

Recently, Republican Senator Dolores Gresham introduced Senate Bill 1736. The bill provides that business owners who operate gun-free areas can be held liable for any injury that occurs to a concealed permit holder who is on their property but is not carrying a gun because of the gun-free restrictions.

Business owners and others who own and operate in public spaces typically can be held liable under Tennessee law for known dangerous conditions on their property that they fail to address and that cause harm to an “invitee,” or someone who accesses the public space.  Thus, for instance, if a business owner has been informed that his stairs are broken but fails to fix the stairs, and a customer falls and is injured while on the stairs, the business owner may be liable.  Senator Gresham’s bill would extend this concept of premises liability to hold business owners responsible for any harm to the well-being of “invitees” who are gun permit holders but who are unarmed while on the business property because the business forbids them from carrying guns. If the business failed to protect the gun permit holder from violence by another invitee, employee, or vicious animal, by virtue of not allowing the gun permit holder to carry a gun, the business could be liable for any injury that results.

Gresham’s bill would apply to only a limited category of individuals. Specifically, those wanting to bring suit under the bill would have to show that:  (1) they were authorized to carry a gun at the time the incident occurred; (2) they were prohibited from carrying such a gun on the premises because of the existence of a gun-free sign; and (3) the property owner was not required by state or federal law to post such a sign but posted the sign out of personal choice. Thus, only individuals with existing gun permits would be able to utilize the bill.

While the bill has only recently been introduced and is unlikely to become a law in the very near future, it has already raised considerable debate as to the rights of individuals to carry guns for self-defense in public spaces and the rights of business owners to set forth the terms of entry onto their property.  If adopted, the bill would considerably expand the scope of premises liability for business owners, an issue of concern that the business community has been quick to point out.

While the question of property owner liability for injuries suffered by gun owners remains open for debate, businesses can be, and often are, held liable for those dangers on their property that they have willfully failed to address, or negligently ignored. If you have been injured as a result of a failure to address hazardous conditions, personal injury attorney Eric Beasley can assist you in evaluating your potential premises liability claim. For more information on seeking redress and compensation for your injuries, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Do Curbs For Wheelchair Ramps Constitute Dangerous Conditions in Tennessee?, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, January 27, 2016

Personal Injury Claims Resulting From Home Construction Defects – Who is Liable?, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, December 18, 2015

The Role of Personal Injury Attorneys in Helping Slip and Fall Victims, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, February 15, 2013