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Enactment of open carry legislation begins Nov. 1

We have heard from a large number of our bankers on the topic of the upcoming effective date on the open carry legislation enactment. Every bank has, as does every business, the right to allow or prohibit the carrying of weapons on their premises. This applies to both open and concealed carry. To effect the prohibition, if you so choose, you must post signage to that effect. We would recommend that all signage be prominently displayed at eye level. OBA has signage available through our OBASCO division and Carol Ham would be happy to assist you with a purchase. If you are located in an office building with multiple tenants the building owners will make the decision for signage at the entrance but you have the right to prohibit independently at your bank entrance. In the event that you have multiple entrances you would want to post signage at each.

Your decision on whether or not to prohibit should be based on a thoughtful review of a myriad of factors. Those could include, but not be limited to, location, crime rates in the area, customer base and whether or not you have armed security on site.

Discussions with Oklahoma banks have included pros and cons for prohibiting and a few of those are listed below:

Pro argument for signage:

  1. Individuals who go through the concealed (soon open) carry classes only have to show a basic familiarity with the weapon and fire a small number of rounds most often with no serious standards of accuracy. As recent news events have shown, even well- trained police officers often miss their intended mark when under severe stress. That brings into question whether open carry persons, even with the best of intentions, would fire wild shots inside your bank in a stressful situation.
  2. The majority of Oklahoma law enforcement officers did not support the open carry legislation, expressing strong concerns that at a crime scene they will not be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys. The president of the Oklahoma Chiefs of Police, who is married to one of our longtime Oklahoma bankers, testified against the enactment of open carry legislation.
  3. Security experts have long agreed that the presence of firearms may escalate the chance of shots being fired, a concept that has been included in the past in the decision process as to whether armed security will be hired in banks.

Cons against signage:

  1. An increased presence of firearms could be a deterrence to robbers.
  2. Signage prohibiting guns could translate to robbers that you are unprotected.
  3. Prohibitions could be offensive to customers who believe in an interpretation of the 2nd amendment where they view it as a basic right. Some banks also believe that it will be a non-event and we will see very few customers, if any, actually carrying weapons (concealed or open) in the future as the novelty wears off and people realize how cumbersome they actually are.

If you do choose to prohibit weapons, this would be a great time to review your policies to be sure your written exceptions to the prohibition are what you want to have in place. Common exceptions are for currently certified law enforcement officers (including plain clothes officers displaying a badge) and armed security officers employed by the bank. Also remember that, while you can prohibit employees from carrying firearms in the bank, you cannot prohibit them from having weapons in their parked vehicles as clarified by a recent court case.

Many of our bankers have asked what others are doing on this issue. If recent conversations are reflective, it would appear that the vast majority of banks will be posting the no weapons allowed signage. There are a number of banks who have decided not to post and some that are allowing individual branches to make that call independently as different locations would dictate different responses.

If you want or need to discuss this in further detail feel free to contact Mary Beth Guard and her talented cadre of attorneys or Elaine Dodd in our OBA fraud division.

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