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Open Carry of Firearms: Corporations make public policy when government fails to

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The national gun debate has gone corporate. The historic and heated feud between gun activists, who invoke the Second Amendment to support their claim to carry any firearm anywhere, anytime, and those in favor of gun control, who point to Sandy Hook, Aurora, and other mass shootings to bolster their argument for regulation of firearms, is now being waged through corporate America. The lack of a uniform national policy has left large retailers and restaurant chains subject to the differences in the local and state laws in which their stores and restaurants are located. Even more disturbing, the lack of national leadership on the issue left corporations vulnerable to groups wanting to push their agendas on a national stage. The result: corporate America is now forging the national policy on firearms.

Your Denver personal injury attorney asks you to consider the following evolution in just the past twelve months. In September 2013, Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz issued an open letter to its customers, requesting that they no longer bring firearms into Starbucks stores or outdoor seating areas, even in states that permit open carry of firearms, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel. The letter did not constitute a ban because Starbucks wanted to “give responsible gun owners the chance to respect [their] request.”

The request by Starbucks that its patrons leave their assault rifles behind when going out for their favorite latte was prompted in part by demonstrations and rallies–at Starbucks stores–by members of a radical gun-rights group called Open Carry. Open Carry members would converge on Starbucks stores with assault rifles and other large firearms in hand to flaunt their right to open carry their guns, and supposedly, Starbucks’ support of that right. When other customers–and baristas–became nervous and complained, Starbucks realized it needed to formulate a uniform policy that extended to all of its stores, no matter what state and local laws may apply.

Fast-forward to March of 2014. By this time, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, Jack in the Box and Chipotle all had adopted similar policies to the request issued by Starbucks; namely, that customers do not bring firearms into their establishments. Member of Open Carry refused to be intimidated, and some of its Texas members posted images of themselves at a Dallas-Ft. Worth area Target with assault rifles slung over their backs in the baby aisle. The post noted that “Target is very 2A friendly,” referencing the Second Amendment.

The response was strong and swift. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that has been lobbying for better gun control, rallied its constituents, who also happen to be the core market for Target. By July 3, 2014, Target issued a statement in which it “respectfully requested that guests not bring firearms into Target even in communities where Open Carry is permitted by law…[It] creates an environment that is at odds with a family-friendly shopping and work experience.”

Fast-forward to the present. Kroger’s, the nation’s biggest grocery store chain, is the newest corporation to come to the national policy debate on firearms. On August 30, 2014, Moms Demand Action called on Kroger’s to adopt the position of Starbucks, Target and other major retailers and request that its customers not bring firearms into its stores. Your Denver personal injury attorney notes that the campaign was once again prompted by people showing up with assault rifles–this time in the frozen food section. The “Groceries Not Guns” online petition urges people to boycott Kroger’s on the weekends, and to email the corporate office until such a policy is announced. As of mid-September, Kroger’s had not yet articulated a national policy, and merely reiterated that its stores continued to follow state and local laws. How long Kroger’s can maintain this tight-rope walk is questionable.

Thrust into the role of policy-maker–perhaps unfairly, though that can be debated–corporate America is formulating a uniform, common-sense strategy. For more information about your rights and responsibilities as a gun owner, contact Jordan Levine at Levine Law today.