Whatever your personal feelings are about firearms, the cold, hard fact is that most states have open-carry laws (some require permits, some do not), and 11 states and counting have passed laws that allow for concealed carry of firearms without a permit . Complicating matters are that some venues prohibit firearms, even when they're allowed under state law. What’s a planner to do when it comes to devising a policy around firearms at meetings?
One thing is to become informed about what the laws are—and Plan Your Meetings at Meeting Professionals International just made that task a bit easier with this very cool interactive state-by-state online gun law and event venues map. Just click through to your meeting’s host state to learn what the laws are, what exclusions exist, and generally what you need to know to develop a policy.
Then, according to Josh Grimes, who talked about this issue at a session I went to at last year’s MPI World Education Congress, review those gun-carry laws with a local attorney. He advised that planners should then develop a policy around what will and will not be permitted, and distribute it well ahead of time to attendees, exhibitors, and other participants. It also can help to hire security to help enforce the rules, he said, and perhaps offer a “firearms check” along with your coat-check area, especially if there are certain areas that your policy determines should be firearm-free, such as areas where you’re serving alcohol.
Do you have a policy around firearms at your meetings? If not, I would get cracking on developing one asap. I don't know about you, but the idea of what I would do if an active shooter situation came up has increasingly been on my mind at meetings I've been to lately, and I am putting my faith in the planners, as always, to have a plan to keep us all safe while respecting the local laws.