Recently, Illinois became the final state to adopt conceal carry laws to authorize gun owners to obtain a permit to carry their firearm on their person. This new legislation has again sparked the debate relating to gun control in relation to community associations and the extent to which associations may adopt rules to restrict guns within the community.
As has been reported numerous times, homeowner association meetings can, at times, become emotionally charged. These highly emotional meetings lead to complaints of harassment, assault and in extreme cases even shootings. In 2012, a Kentucky association meeting ended in violence when an owner in a longstanding dispute with the Association attended a meeting and shot two board members. In a recent article appearing in the Chicago Tribune, 1,314 respondents participated in a 2012 national survey conducted by the Community Association Institute and of those responding, 52% reported having been threatened with physical violence. While this is of pronounced concern, is this a cause for banning concealed guns in an association? If so, how far can these bans go?
One side of the debate claims that by allowing owners to carry a weapon at association meetings, when the meetings get heated, the existence of a gun will only exacerbate the situation and turn a heated argument into a fatal one. The counter argument, of course, relies on the fact that owners with concealed carry permits have been thoroughly screened and vetted by the state and that these owners are responsible gun owners and would actually make the meeting safer knowing that there are potentially other guns within the meeting room. The pro-gun side also contends that none of the shootings involved concealed weapons, but rather owners that had not been vetted and simply hid their guns because they were not permitted to carry a gun.
While it is clear that an association can adopt rules to prohibit owners from carrying guns in common areas or while attending meetings, the question becomes does it make a difference? I would argue that no, it does not. As quoted in the Chicago Tribune article, Illinois attorney Stuart Fullett stated, “Realistically, you shouldn’t even know if someone is carrying. “ As the name implies, it is concealed carry. You should not even know who may have a gun and unless the association plans on installing metal detectors at the entrance of a meeting, the existence of a gun will not be known.
As the debate on gun control continues, some states will carry on towards trying, finding and adopting legislation that controls guns. However, as was experienced in Colorado, with the recall of two legislatures and a forced resignation of a third over their support of gun control, responsible gun owners will take a stand to protect the “second amendment right.” While the association may have the ability to ban fire arms in the community, practically speaking, it would be nearly impossible to enforce thus, leading to a situation in which the association can do very little in relation to gun control.