I was in the Ballas Shopping center in Creve Coeur today - and planned to go into the Clarkson Eyecare Center located next to the First Watch, but saw a large sign stating "NO FIREARMS ALLOWED."
Now before you ask, whether or not I was armed with a weapon and the appropriate carry permit isn't the point, as telling people when and where you carry, or even that you have a permit is against the purpose of concealed carry. What matters is that a merchant made a decision, well within their rights, but that decision cost them a hefty sale.
I needed a new pair of glasses, complete with a new prescription and contacts. I planned on spending about $1000. Now, that money is going to Sam's and another eyeglass dealer. Quite frankly, their choice to post a sign was the single reason I choose not to do business with them.
Don't get me wrong. I understand that many people do not like guns. I get that many people are afraid of them, and that given the choice, many businesses would rather not have guns in the store. There are family members who feel the same way about their homes, and I respect their feelings, if not the sentiment behind it. But what exactly is the purpose of these signs?
It's instructive to understand their purpose. In the state of Missouri, concealed carry permits are legal. Those who apply for the permit get one, in what is known as shall-issue (unless of course there is some background reason as to why they shouldn't). The specifics of the law screen against felons, those with domestic violence, anger, mental competence, and intoxication issues, and require a training course to be completed with an instructor as well as a fee to the state.
Part of that training is understanding the law. Those signs don't prevent me from entering an establishment with a firearm. Of course there's the very basic understanding that no sign can stop an armed person from doing what they want, but the sign is a notice to concealed carry permit holders that if a shopkeeper finds out you have a concealed weapon, you are required to leave. You can receive a ticket for this, to the tune of $100 for the first violation, and revocation of the permit if it happens the second time. If you are asked to leave and do not, you can be charged with criminal trespass (of course, that's true whether you carry or not).
There are no extra penalties for carrying a weapon illegally. If you bring a weapon into a store and have it concealed, and you do not have a permit, the sign doesn't create any additional liability. It's aimed solely at law-abiding permit holders.
Understand instructors, and most carry permit holders, aren't out to make trouble. It's not worth the hassle to argue with a business owner because they don't want a gun in their establishment. Any permit holder who goes into a business with a sign and attempts to argue isn't helping gun rights. Part of being a responsible gun owner is recognizing that people are irrational when it comes to guns. Bringing it up when you're wearing a weapon is the height of irresponsibility.
And yet, here is a business owner who is telling you he or she doesn't want your business. The sign isn't aimed at criminals or likely burglars. It's not aimed at people carrying a gun illegally. It's aimed solely at permit holders. It crossed my mind to call them and tell them that today they lost a sale. I wasn't trying to be sarcastic, but rather to inform them that their choices, while within their rights, had an economic impact. But I didn't. Calling a business to tell them they lost your business is pretty normal, but bringing a gun into the conversation changes it. It's not that difficult to imagine a scared clerk thinking my information was some kind of veiled threat (remember, fear of guns is irrational), and so a polite call or even a handwritten note could have resulted in a visit to my door and a police report because some person heard the word "gun" spoken and perceived it to be a threat.
So instead I blogged it - not as effective as the call, but safer, and with less emotion.
Today Clarkson Eyecare lost $1000 because they said they didn't want my business. For more businesses in the state of Missouri that post signs, check out this list (keep in mind it is unvetted and may be out of date).