If you plan meetings for the National Rifle Association, you may not bat an eye at the idea of allowing gun owners with permits to carry concealed weapons into your meeting space, as was the case at the NRA’s annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., in May. The only exceptions were in areas that fell under Secret Service jurisdiction, such as the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum, and in areas where alcohol was being served.
The Secret Service put the kibosh on guns entirely at the Republican National Convention, being held this week in Cleveland, despite an intense lobbying effort by gun-rights devotees on Change.org and a generally firearm-friendly delegate group. “Only authorized law enforcement personnel working in conjunction with the Secret Service for a particular event may carry a firearm inside of the protected site,” said Secret Service spokesman K. Hoback in a statement earlier this year.
Now that many states allow guns to be carried into public spaces, as long as the practice complies with the host state’s firearm laws, armed attendees may be coming to your next meeting. As with any other meetings-related issue, your organization should have a policy on handling guns at your meetings, said Josh Grimes, an attorney with Grimes Law Offices, during a session at the Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress in Atlantic City in June.
A few things to consider:
• Review the gun-carry laws of your host state with a local attorney.
• Develop a policy around what will and will not be permitted, and distribute it well ahead of time.
• Hire security to help enforce the rules.
• Consider offering a “firearms check” along with your coat-check area. This could come in especially handy if there are certain areas that your policy determines should be firearm-free, such as areas where you’re serving alcohol, or, if anyone presidential should be joining you, areas under Secret Service control.