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Atty. Ralph D. Sherman

130 West Main Street • New Britain, Connecticut 06052

tel. (860) 229-0213 • fax (860) 229-0235 • e-mail


Legal Opinion

September 1999

Governor makes State employees defenseless

Gov. Rowland recently issued an executive order prohibiting State employees from carrying a firearm on State property, even if they have a permit. Although some State employees apparently believed this was already official policy, many others were outraged.

After the governor's order, reporters kept asking me the same two questions:

Is it legal?

Is it good policy?

My answers didn't always make it into print (or onto the airwaves), so here's a replay.

The answer to the first question is fairly simple. It's legal for your employer to bar you from carrying a weapon on his premises, the same as he can tell you that you can't wear cutoffs or sneakers to the office. During working hours, you're supposed to be furthering the employer's interest and following his rules. If you don't like those rules, you can seek work elsewhere.

But when an employer tells you to leave your gun at home, even though you have a permit and always carry discreetly, that employer may be assuming liability if you are attacked. This would be true especially if you are attacked on the premises by an outsider, like a customer or a visitor. There may even be liability if you are attacked as you walk from the employer's building to the nearby garage where you usually park your car. If the employer's policy kept you from defending yourself, then you have a claim against the employer.

The second question - is it good policy - is the one that our governor should be embarrassed about. He was quoted by the press as saying that Connecticut "isn't the Wild West."

True, this isn't the Wild West. This is Connecticut in the 1990s. Last year in Connecticut a mass murderer was able take innocent lives at the State lottery headquarters because nobody was able to defend themselves - because office policy was "no firearms," not even for the head of Security.

Now the governor has applied this same disastrous policy to every other State agency. Some people have said the policy is supposed to send a message. The only message here is that the governor doesn't trust law-abiding people who hold pistol permits. Personally, I find it insulting and contrary to the basic human right of self protection.

Several reporters asked me, what about a State employee who gets angry one day on the job and has a gun handy because he has a permit? Wouldn't the governor's policy prevent violence in that case?

The answer is, people who commit that type of violence are seething inside for a long time. They don't blow up in a minute or a day. Like the Lottery murderer, they plan their attack in advance. And they become bolder if they know that no one at their place of work will be able to defend themselves. They are not deterred by office policy.

Politicians like the governor like to say that their policies have created "Safety Zones." I call them "Defenseless Zones." I wouldn't want my wife or children to work in one.


Copyright 1999 by Ralph D. Sherman

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