Oregon House and Senate Republicans on Thursday blasted a state policy released last week that prohibits state employees from bringing weapons to their workplace or state buildings.

The doesn't apply to state workers who, like sworn police officers,  carry guns as part of their duties.

Republicans blasted the updated rule.

"I am extremely concerned to learn that our state government has taken steps that limit employees' right to self-defense and believe that these actions may violate the Oregon Constitution," House Republican Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) said in a statement. "I will be asking Gov. Brown's office to explain where they believe their power to take such actions is derived from and, if necessary, take swift action to restore the rights of Oregonians as soon as possible."

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferriolli (R-John Day) expressed similar concerns.

"The governor's administration has no business confiscating self-defense rights from public servants, volunteers and others, who have committed themselves to serving our state," Feriolli said in a statement. "Oregonians should be outraged that public servants are now endangered due to a seemingly political agenda at the cost of safety."

Chris Pair, Brown's spokesman, said the policy, released Jan. 6 by the Department of Administrative Services, was nothing new.

Matt Shelby, a spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services, says the policy is merely an update on a prohibition on guns in the state buildings that has been in effect since at least 1998.

"[There's] no real change for employees with this HR policy," Shelby says.

But Preston Mann, a spokesman for the House Republicans, disagrees with that assertion. He says state employees who have concealed handgun licenses used to be able to bring their guns to work but will no longer be allowed to do so.

"Our legal director was told by the director of government relations for DAS that prior to the 1/6/2017 policy, DAS employees who had a CHL were allowed to carry their concealed firearms into their office," Mann says.

The 1998 policy is silent on concealed handgun licenses. Here's what it says:

“No firearm or other weapon of any kind, including any explosives, shall be permitted at any time on the premise of any state office building owned or leased by the Department. Except that, such firearms other weapons are permitted when in the possession of or stored for official public business authorized
by statute for peace officers or for members of any state or national military organization.”

The updated policy released last week, however, is explicit.

“A permit to carry a concealed handgun does not give an employee the
authority to use or carry a handgun into the workplace,” the policy says.
Shelby says the updated policy is an effort to clarify what the state expects from state workers.

"Prior to the new HR policy it wasn't clear in our policies what employees could or couldn't do. We had a 1998 facilities policy that essentially said no firearms at all, expect for law enforcement. [Oregon Revised Statute] 166.370 echoes that, but includes an exception for conceal carry permit holders," Shelby says. "The HR policy was developed to clarify the expectation for employees. The conceal carry exemption still applies to non-employees."

In other words, non-state employees who have concealed carry licenses can still bring guns into state buildings. State employees cannot.