Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Right to Carry: 30 States Allow Guns in Public Libraries
Under many states' laws, including Washington, public libraries (not affiliated with schools or private institutions) cannot restrict patrons who are carrying firearms from entering the premises.
For example, a recent Missouri law relaxing the regulation on concealed weapons in public spaces has affected the public libraries in the state. Missouri Senate Bill 656 eliminates the requirement to have a permit to carry a weapon in most public spaces, and public libraries are not listed among the exempted institutions. The Missouri State Legislature voted to override then Governor Nixon's veto of the bill on September 14, 2016 and the law went into effect on January 1, 2017. In response to a letter from a state representative, the public libraries in Columbia, MO changed the signs on their doors from "Carrying or possession of firearms or weapons prohibited" to "No person shall possess, on the library premises, a weapon of any kind, unless authorized by law" on February 17, 2017. A spokeswoman for the library said that, for the time being, the library would allow concealed weapons on the premises, but the library received complaints from patrons about the policy change and its attorney is reviewing the situation and would make a report to the board.
Missouri is not the only state to allow weapons, concealed or otherwise, in public libraries. In a 2012 decision, a state appellate court in Michigan held that a public library policy prohibiting weapons was in conflict with state law and the policy is therefore "preempted."
Diana Gleason of the University of Idaho College of Law Library conducted a study entitled "Can I Bring my Gun?" and found that you can likely bring your gun to public libraries in over 30 states. Her study is a 50 state survey of gun laws in which she created two charts: one with citations to statutes regarding (1) preemption of local government restrictions on guns, (2) open carry, and (3) concealed carry, and a second chart assigning point values to the restrictions (or lack thereof) and ranking states from most likely to least likely to uphold gun restrictions in libraries. The survey was last updated in 2015, so Missouri's new law is not included. As Gleason says, "Research on gun laws is a moving target, so to speak."
State surveys are a good way to compare and contrast state laws regarding a specific subject. Westlaw and Lexis both offer 50 State Survey tools; both services have them available with their secondary sources/materials. Gallagher's own Cheryl Nyberg is an author of the "Subject Compilation of State Laws," available in print in the reference area or through HeinOnline.