Guns in Our Offices: Response from the Ethics Committee
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Posted by: Becky Beaton, PhD, Ethics Committee Chair
A few weeks ago, several GPA members posed a concern about new gun legislation and what it means to the safety of our work environment. We listened to your concerns and did some research.
First, if you would like to learn more about the "Safe Carry Protection Act" that recently passed, you may do so by looking up O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126 and 16-11-127 (2014) here: http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/Default.asp?loggedIn=done. Although firearms are now allowed on most properties, they are not permitted in a state mental health facility (refer to the law for the legal definition). Additionally, private property owners or those controlling private property (e.g., in a lease) have the right to prohibit the carrying of firearms on their premises. GPA's attorney, Rob Remar, stated "a person who brings a firearm onto property where carrying is prohibited and refuses to leave is guilty of criminal trespass. It is, however, unclear whether merely coming onto property with a gun where there is no firearms sign posted is a criminal trespass." Therefore, merely stating "no firearms allowed" in your informed consent may not be enough. Remar stated further, "while there are no cases that have been decided under the new Act, it would be prudent to anyone treating patients in a private facility or office to post a notice that firearms are prohibited."
Although we know that it is legal to do so, the next question raised was is it ethical to ask clients not to carry weapons into facilities where we practice. The ethical concerns raised by the GPA Ethics Committee were primarily pertaining to discrimination of people carrying firearms when they have a legal right to do so. We posed this question to both Rob Remar and Dr. Eric Harris of APA Insurance Trust. Dr. Harris stated, in his professional opinion, there was no discrimination issue. In fact, we have every right to make a request for our environment to be one in which we feel we can practice effectively. Furthermore, Dr. Harris stated that such a condition is an ethical prerequisite. Attorney Rob Remar stated, "a psychologist may refuse to treat a patient who insists on carrying a gun. There is no law or ethical obligation that would require a psychologist to do business with a person who is carrying a gun on the psychologist's premises."
The Ethics Committee hopes this information is helpful in answering our members' questions. For more information on gun violence, prediction, prevention, and policy, APA created a report from their panel of experts which may be found at this website: http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/reports/gun-violence-prevention.aspx.