New Right-to-Carry Laws Always Inspire Sign Debate
October 1, 2003
by Joseph P. Tartaro
It happened in Texas.
It happened in Michigan.
It happened in Colorado.
It happened in Minnesota.
Now its happening in Missouri.
As soon as any state enacts right-to-carry legislationparticularly if the new statute allows businesses and institutions to post signs prohibiting concealed carry even by licenseesthere is a big brouhaha about such sign-posting policies.
Much of this controversy is a direct result of hysteria generated by people who have a morbid fear of guns and gunowners, especially in those states that previously did not allow citizens to carry concealed for defense. That hysteria is often whipped up by the media, by churches, judges, prosecutors and opponents of the enabling legislation. It is all part of the blood-in-the-streetsDodge City syndrome. And it is fueled by every workplace shooting incident, even though most of those multiple shootings have occurred in so-called gun-free workplacesa bizarre term which means that only criminals and whackos are armed.
Some stateslike Utah, which doesnt limit as many public places where citizens have a right-to-carry concealedprovide for safe storage lockers in public buildings, particularly courts, where legally armed visitors may check their handguns.
But almost every state that has enacted right-to-carry in the last 15 years has incorporated into the statute a list of places, such as government buildings, schools and colleges, banks, parks and places which sell alcohol, in order to get enough votes to pass the concealed carry bill.
This column was inspired in part by recent debates in Michigan, Colorado and Minnesota over No Guns sign-posting in business establishments, churches and government buildings. In Colorado, there were reports of attorneys and business consulting firms advising their clients to post. Here and there, business insurance companies have also gotten into the act.
Signs of the Times
Now that Missouri is expected to have concealed carrybarring a reversal of the override vote by the courtsposting has become an immediate hot-button issue.
In fact, a recent article in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch claimed that No Firearms signs at many workplaces and businesses open to the public may be the first outward indication that Missouri has joined the states that allow residents to carry concealed firearms. The article also listed the policies of several large companies.
On Sept. 11, the Missouri legislature overrode Gov. Bob Holdens veto of a bill directing county sheriffs to issue licenses to carry concealed firearms to residents who meet certain requirements. The law will take effect Oct. 11, unless immediate court challenges overrule the legislature.
The Missouri law prohibits guns being taken into stadiums holding more than 5,000 people, hospitals, places of worship, casinos or bars, without the owners consent. But other workplaces will need to post signs if they want to keep firearms out. The law says any private property owner, business or organization may prohibit people from bringing guns onto their premises.
A person with a carrying permit who violates that prohibition could be cited and fined $100 for a first offense but would not be charged with a crime. The law allows people with permits to keep guns in vehicles on parking lots of prohibited locations, as long as they are not brandished.
Laura Browder, a spokeswoman for Talx Corp., said she was working in Texas in the 1990s when a similar law was passed. You started seeing signs on the buildings saying that you couldnt carry guns into them, she said.
One of those companies was SBC Corp., which moved its headquarters to San Antonio in 1993.
SBC has always had a policy that there are no guns allowed on its premises, said Ann Balsamo, a company spokeswoman. Our policy of no guns will not change, and we will put notices up in our buildings in Missouri.
Ameren Corp., the largest utility in Missouri, and a company visited daily by thousands of customers, will not allow guns on its premises, said company spokeswoman Susan Gallagher.
Security guards at Solutia Corp. already enforce the companys no-gun policy by requiring visitors to leave any firearms at the security gate before coming on the premises, said spokeswoman Liesel Livingston.
Solutia will soon e-mail all employees advising them that the company does not allow handguns. And it will post signs as soon as it can get them made.
Several national companies surveyedGeneral Motors Corp.; Ford Motor Co.; DaimlerChrysler AG; Boeing; Energizer Holdings Inc., in Town and Country; Amdocs Ltd., a billing and customer service software company with operations in Chesterfield, MO, and Monsanto Co., the Creve Coeur-based maker of products for the agriculture industryhad immediate and similar responses: They do not allow firearms in the workplace, and they will remind their Missouri employees of that soon.
Its the same (policy), I suspect, of any ethical companywe prevent firearms on our site, said Mike Montague, spokesman for the drug giant Pfizer Inc.
The carmakers specifically include parking lots in their bans. Its basically a zero tolerance policy, said Dan Bodene, DaimlerChrysler spokesman.
But the measure took some smaller organizations by surprise.
We need to take a look at it (the new law), said Lori Pickens, chief executive of the American Lung Association of Eastern Missouri.
Anna Crosslin, president of the International Institute, which aids many immigrants in St. Louis, was only half-joking when she agreed the nonprofit agency might have to post Firearms Prohibited signs in many languages.
Issues for Retailers
For retailers, the response is less clear-cut.
Dan Kimack, a spokesman for Save-A-Lot Ltd. in Earth City, MO, said the company bans employees from carrying guns in stores.
But while we work hard to ensure a safe and clean shopping and working environment, we simply cannot police the more than 4 million customers who shop our stores each week.
Sharon Bateman, a spokeswoman for St. Louis-based May Department Stores Co., said the company has a long-standing policy that prohibits employees from carrying firearms in stores and company property.
We are evaluating the (new) law as it applies to our customers, she said. The company is trying to figure out Mays legal ability to control what happens in its stores.
May operates chains including Famous-Barr, Lord & Taylor and Filenes.
Few workers run a higher risk of homicide than taxi drivers. Homicides accounted for 72% of on-the-job cabbie fatalities in 2001. But the president of one St. Louis area cab company said he probably wont prohibit passengers from carrying concealed weapons. However, drivers will not be allowed guns or other defensive arms.
Missouri employers seem to be almost in universal agreement when it comes to banning carry on premises by employees, but a Republican candidate for the US Senate in Illinois said that the recent massacre at Windy City Core Supply might have been prevented had the employees been allowed to carry concealed firearms.
Would Chicago (the massacre) have been averted? Possibly, said retired Air Force Maj. John Borling. If somebody had been able to take a gun out from under the counter and defend themselves, that might have made a big difference, he said according to The Chicago Sun Times.
Borling, 63, favors a law allowing licensed gunowners to carry their guns at restaurants, shopping malls and even the workplace. He staked out the positions during a statewide flyaround to announce his bid to succeed retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald in the March 16 GOP primary, a contest which has attracted 11 declared or potential candidates.
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