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Target To Customers: No Guns In Our Stores, Please

Target Open Carry

Target is asking customers to stop bringing guns in its stores, although it is stopping short of adopting a policy of formally barring them:

Target Corp. on Wednesday said it would ask customers to no longer carry guns in its stores, bowing to a month-long pressure campaign.

The retailer said it would “respectfully request” that customers not bring guns into its stores, “even in communities where it is permitted by law.”

“This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create,” Target’s interim CEO, John Mulligan, wrote in a memo posted on the chain’s website.

Target’s move comes after Texas gun-rights groups posted photographs of their members carrying rifles through the aisles of stores near Dallas.

In response, a second group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun-control organization funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, launched a campaign to pressure the retailer to forbid guns.

The group’s founder, Shannon Watts, led an online and social media campaign to boycott Target.

This decision by Target is the latest statement by a major national retail business in response to complaints from groups like Mom’s Demand and the actions of certain “gun rights activists” who have often engaged in actions like the one depicted in the photo above, which involved a group of such people openly carrying not just pistols but semi-automatic weapons in a Target store. Last year, for example, Starbucks made a similar request of its customers to not bring guns into the company’s stores but also stopped short of barring such weapons. The decision not to formally ban weapons makes sense. If such a ban were in place, then employees would theoretically be charged with confronting people who are open carrying (in states where that is legal) and reminding them of the store’s policy, and likely asking them to either leave or store the weapon in their car while they shop. The risk that an incident could result in a confrontation between the employee is real and apparent, so Target and Starbucks would be taking a real risk by adopting a policy that, ironically, could make violence more likely. Additionally, when it comes to concealed carry, again in states where that is permitted, there’s really no way for the store to enforce the policy, and employees confronting people who they think might be carrying weapons is likely to cause more problems than it solves.

That being said, while I consider myself a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I really do have to wonder about people who feel the need to carry a weapon during the course of what are otherwise normal every day activities are thinking sometimes. If you ask them, they will tell you that the weapon is for self-defense and, indeed, there have been plenty of instances of people who were armed thwarting a robbery or a shooting over the years. Additionally, there have been very few, if any, reports of someone who was legally carrying — ether concealed or open — committing an unlawful act. That said, I do find it odd, especially when it comes to openly carrying, which just seems to me to be a way for a gun owner to get in the face of people who might disagree with them.

Paul Waldman comments on the phenomenon:

Gun advocates often speak of their cultural attachment to firearms, and what we have here is certainly a clash of cultures. Target would probably never have taken this step were it not for the efforts of Open Carry Texas, a group of gun owners who get a charge out of walking into a grocery store or a coffee shop with AR-15s slung over their shoulders so that they can see the terrified looks on people’s faces. Target’s request comes in the wake of similar moves from Chipotleand Starbucks, and in each case it followed the same pattern: Open-carry advocates brought their assault rifles into the stores, customers and staff freaked out, and the corporation decided to make a request of its customers to leave their guns at home.

It’s important to understand that there are lots of gun owners who think groups like Open Carry Texas are nuts, and even plenty of gun advocates who think they’re doing serious damage to the cause. But groups like theirs have performed a service by reminding us that just as there’s a culture of guns, and cultures where guns are plentiful, there are also tens of millions of Americans for whom an absence of guns is a cultural value. It’s part of how they define places, whether it’s their communities or the stores they shop in, as safe and pleasant. People who grew up around a lot of guns may not blink an eye when they go to the hardware store and see a pistol peeking out of some dude’s sweatpants, but many people find that a troubling sight. We’re not all going to share the same culture, but being an honorable member of society means being aware of how some parts of your particular culture may make other people uncomfortable or afraid, and trying to act respectfully in response.

Obviously, there is no Second Amendment issue here. Target, Starbucks, and other retailers are free to set policies like this as they wish, and consumers are free to act accordingly. As happened with the Starbucks announcement, I have seen some comments from people on the gun rights side of the debate who say that they aren’t going to patronize Target because of this announcement. That is their right, of course, but something tells me that Target isn’t going to suffer much in their bottom line from this decision, Indeed, they may end up gaining customers because of it.

Photo via Mother Jones

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    Banning guns in the “wild west” in towns a cities was fairly common. Wyatt Earp banned guns in Dodge City. They realized that guns and drunken cowboys was a bad combination. We see a similar thing happening in Georgia where many bars are banning guns, their right under the law.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  2. JWH says:

    Concealed carry is saying to yourself, “I have a gun in case I need it.” Conspicuous open carry is shouting to everyone, “I HAVE A GUN!!!!!!! AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME FROM CARRYING IT!!!!!!1111″

    The former is quiet self-defense and preparedness. The latter is a show of force.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The risk that an incident could result in a confrontation between the employee is real and apparent, so Target and Starbucks would be taking a real risk by adopting a policy that, ironically, could make violence more likely.

    Say what? Say WHAT??? Doug, I know what you are trying to say, but one has to turn reason on it’s head for that statement to make sense. Welcome to America, where if you get shot it’s your own damn fault.

    This insanity needs to end now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  4. James Pearce says:

    I have been amused by the obnoxiousness of the Open Carry movement. They want to demonstrate how “normal” it is to see someone walking around buying Oreos with a rifle strapped to their back.

    And yet all they’re doing is demonstrating how weird it is and getting all of these places to declare, by choice not law, that they’re “gun-free zones.” Good work, guys.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  5. beth says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Kind of puts to lie that whole notion of a “responsible” gun owner, doesn’t it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  6. @OzarkHillbilly:

    My point is that if they had adopted an “all guns are banned” policy, then these companies would, at least to some extent, putting their employees and customers in a more dangerous situation. It’s not an unreasonable position to take and, indeed, I would not be surprised if the liability issues that it quite obviously raises are part of the reason why the companies in question stopped short of the outright ban.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  7. Scott says:

    Target, Chipotle, Starbucks. What is the common thread? They are focused on a specific customer and those customers, by and large, do not carry weapons; they carry wallets. To be even blunter, as long as we are talking about clash of cultures, they don’t want those kind of people in their stores. Yep, classism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That is their right, of course, but something tells me that Target isn’t going to suffer much in their bottom line from this decision, Indeed, they may end up gaining customers because of it.

    This is the truth of it tho I won’t hold my breath waiting for the day a corporation says, “If you have to carry a weapon to shop, go elsewhere. Our stores are safer without you.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’m inclined to agree with you Doug. I’m sure their corporate lawyers told them how far they could go.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yeah Doug, I know, and you are right, my point was only that gun-nut America has stood reason on it’s head.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @beth: As a life long gun owner, I just don’t get it. What is more I am utterly disgusted about it. I don’t even like concealed carry because I find nothing responsible in the act of carrying a loaded firearm into a crowded store. Not to mention the fact that some of the people with CCW licenses are the last people you want carrying.

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  12. markm says:

    Seems like a politically neutral decision. It reads like they don’t want a bunch of idiots walking around openly carrying rifles/pistols….understandable…..but they stop short of searching people coming through the door so it’s business as usual. No?.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    Additionally, there have been very few, if any, reports of someone who was legally carrying — ether concealed or open — committing an unlawful act.

    What do you mean, “if any”??? There was one just two days ago that made the papers:

    http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/todays-top-stories/x1736693358/First-day-of-new-gun-law-leads-to-arrest

    VALDOSTA — On the first day of the new Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act, a misunderstanding between two armed men in a convenience store Tuesday led to a drawn firearm and a man’s arrest.

    “Essentially, it involved one customer with a gun on his hip when a second customer entered with a gun on his hip,” said Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress…..

    The customer making demands for ID pulled his firearm from its holster but never pointed it at the other customer, who said he was not obligated to show any permits or identification.

    He demanded the man’s ID again. Undeterred by the drawn gun, the man paid for his items, left the store and called for police.

    Authorities arrested Ronald Williams, 62, on a charge of disorderly conduct, related to the pulling of a weapon inside of the store, according to the VPD. Police confiscated Williams’ weapon and took him to the Lowndes County Jail.

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  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Pearce:

    And yet all they’re doing is demonstrating how weird it is and getting all of these places to declare, by choice not law, that they’re “gun-free zones.” Good work, guys.

    That’s why I’m for open carry rather than allowing concealed carry — make the public face up to the consequences of the laws that their elected legislatures pass. If they don’t like it, maybe they’ll start pressuring them to change the laws.

    I wouldn’t allow concealed carry at all, except for the most necessary circumstances. If you feel you need a gun, then it should be out in the open, where everyone can see it and where everyone knows to get the hell away from you. At least with open carry, the public has a warning that the idiot is armed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    Additionally, there have been very few, if any, reports of someone who was legally carrying — ether concealed or open — committing an unlawful act.

    People who are legally carrying have to get a license from the state, which means they cannot have felony convictions on their records and must, in some states, pass certain background checks, obtain the license directly from the police, etc. Logically, all this says is that a population of non-convicted felons who are willing to deal with background checks and the police are less likely to commit crimes than the population as a whole, which includes felons and people who don’t want to interact with law enforcement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    If I’m going to get into arguments with people in public — and I am — I’d rather know they’re openly carrying a gun ahead of time, so I can assess the situation and avoid them if possible, then have them pull the gun out of a concealed holster at the last minute.

    If we’re going to carry guns around in public — and I don’t think we should at all — I’d much rather it be open carry than concealed carry. At least let me know who I’m dealing with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  17. KM says:

    It is not normal to brazenly display weapons when selecting T-shirts or nabbing some Doritos, no matter how hard they try to convince people. Even in war-torn countries, you can routinely see people in the market place going about unarmed even though they have more cause to be concerned then your average American. I can sympathize with concealed carry and its need to “be prepared” even if it’s not my cup of tea but the idea that we need to “desensitize” people to the idea that firepower & electronic shopping are a winning combination is asinine at best, deadly at worse.

    We don’t want the public to get used to the idea. People that get used to things take them for granted and forgot the awesome power at their fingertips. You should always be conscious and respectful that you are holding a tool that can save your life or end another’s – it shouldn’t just be something you strap on for a political statement or a means to power play some random stranger in the aisle. I can’t believe we have to tell adults this but guns aren’t toys!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  18. C. Clavin says:

    Nice to know that not every corporation in America is run by numbskulls.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  19. C. Clavin says:

    I mean seriously…what kind of pu$$y needs to carry a gun to buy bath towels and bed sheets?
    Look at the clowns in the picture above. Compensating much?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  20. President Camacho says:

    Everytime I see folks carrying weapons in places like Target just to get a rise out of others, i lose more and more respect for them and view them more negatively. i wonder if they know (or care) about what they are doing to their cause for moderates like me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  21. Jim Henley says:

    Gun fandom does not meditate enough on the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

    Anyone who troubles to participate in the Open Carry Movement is, perforce, an angry person who enjoys making a despised Other uncomfortable, and does not realize this about themselves. They are also a Living Mansplainer Exhibit with deadly ordnance – grandiose and heedless and armed. That makes them dangerous.

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  22. DrDaveT says:

    Forget the guns; can we get people to stop bringing their baby strollers?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. Matt Bernius says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    We see a similar thing happening in Georgia where many bars are banning guns, their right under the law.

    I suspect that the timing of Target’s announcement had something to do with the enactment of the Georgia law. Companies are allowed to prohibit open carry within their establishments but must do so clearly and publicly.

    @Rafer Janders:
    In terms of the ID incident, I have to wonder what was the *race* of the person who was being forcefully requested to produce his ID. Either that or what other visual marker about him made Mr. Williams decide that there was no way he could have a legal license.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  24. Jim Henley says:

    @C. Clavin: And on the “It’s always projection” topic, right-wingers always like to call liberals “smug.” But look at those guys’ faces! What better word than “smug” could you find for their expressions?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  25. KM says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    The customer making demands for ID pulled his firearm from its holster but never pointed it at the other customer, who said he was not obligated to show any permits or identification.

    What is it with gun freaks who think they have the right to demand identification? Who died and made them an authority who can ask any random citizen to produce the papers at will and expect obedience? What logic is going on in their heads that they think they have the right to accost people and see sensitive personal information on a whim? My God, I have a hard time thinking of a more anti-Liberty stance then the thought of having to answer to some random angry a-hole with power delusions just because. I bet they’d be spitting mad if someone were to do it to them, or god forbid, the Government.

    Freedom for me, none for thee, indeed.

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  26. C. Clavin says:

    @KM:

    What logic is going on in their heads that they think they have the right to accost people and see sensitive personal information on a whim?

    It’s not logic…….it’s a gun.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  27. mantis says:

    Additionally, there have been very few, if any, reports of someone who was legally carrying — ether concealed or open — committing an unlawful act.

    Just because you willfully ignore things, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Legal gun owners commit crimes all the time. Of course, the gun lobby has been effective at preventing the government from studying these issues, because they don’t want anyone to know how many murderous criminals they count among their ranks, so comprehensive data is not really available. However, the Violence Policy Center has been tallying the crimes committed by legal gun owners with their guns since 2007. In the past seven years, legal gun owners have killed, at least, 644 people. If you omit the 189 suicides, that is 455 murders. That includes 14 murdered police officers and 28 mass shootings. At the site you can follow links to see the details of every case. Keep in mind this is only murders and suicides perpetrated by legal gun owners, and does not include non-fatal crimes, of which there are surely many.

    Gun nuts always pull a nice bait and switch on this issue. Legal gun owners are law-abiding and don’t commit crimes with their guns. As soon as one does, he becomes a criminal and thus not a legal gun owner, so he doesn’t count. And idiots believe them. You’re not an idiot, Doug. Why do you believe their propaganda?

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  28. C. Clavin says:

    @mantis:
    They pull a very similar scam with school shootings.
    http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/06/12/cnn-adopts-flawed-right-wing-logic-on-school-sh/199699

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. Jim Henley says:

    The downvotes on Doug’s comment speculating about the legal/prudential reasons companies would issue a “request” rather than a formal ban strike me as odd. For one thing, I suspect Doug is right. I used to work retail, and home offices have a horror of issuing any directive that could be seen to endanger employees. Frex, when I worked for Waldenbooks, we were forbidden to chase shoplifters. For another, even if Doug is wrong, he’s simply engaged in qualified speculation based on his field (law), not saying, “Yay guns!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  30. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Why do you hate babies?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. MM2 says:

    Gun nuts always pull a nice bait and switch on this issue. Legal gun owners are law-abiding and don’t commit crimes with their guns. As soon as one does, he becomes a criminal and thus not a legal gun owner, so he doesn’t count. And idiots believe them.

    Yep. “Legal gun owner” has become an endless No True Scotsman fallacy

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. Grewgills says:

    @MM2:
    Well, once they’ve committed the felony they can’t be a legal gun owner, so…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    That is their right, of course, but something tells me that Target isn’t going to suffer much in their bottom line from this decision, Indeed, they may end up gaining customers because of it.

    I agree with you. On a net basis they will probably gain customers. How many people want to do their shopping next to a bunch of people who are so insecure that they feel the need to carry guns into a Target store?

    I am glad to hear that businesses like Starbucks and Chipotle are of the same opinion when it comes to guns on their premises – that is, if you want to carry a gun in public, go elsewhere.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0