If a customer walked into your retail business or professional office carrying a gun, would you be comfortable with that, or would it feel a little too much like the O.K. Corral? What if they were carrying their weapon openly?
Businesses in Oklahoma (postal abbreviation: OK) have had a new reason to ask themselves those questions since November 1, when a change in state law enabled most Oklahoma residents to carry firearms without a license. That follows a 2012 law that gave licensed firearms carriers the ability to open-carry weapons. Most businesses in the state do not seem to have changed their policies, according to the Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association, which has more than 300 members including both mom-and-pop Main Street businesses and national chains. While some have been considering the question, most continue to welcome gun-toting patrons.
The association has pointed out to its members that if they choose to allow those carrying weapons—whether openly or otherwise—to enter their establishments, they still can ask an armed patron to leave the premises if he makes others uncomfortable for any reason. And if they don’t leave, merchants can call the police.
Some larger merchants like Walmart, which experienced a shooting in a store parking lot in Duncan, Oklahoma on November 1, have changed their policies around gun sales and open-carry policies. Walmart respectfully requests that customers do not openly carry firearms in its stores unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel, a policy that the company says customers have tested from time to time. On September 3, after shootings at Walmarts in Southaven, Mississippi, and El Paso Texas—the latter an especially horrific scene at which a man with an assault-style rifle shot 48 people and killed 22—the company decided to stop selling short-barrel rifle ammunition that can be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons, as well as all handgun ammunition.
Walmart also decided it would no longer sell handguns in Alaska, a decision it had made earlier regarding stores in the other 49 states. The company also has halted sales of AR-15s, boosted to 21 the age limit to buy firearms or ammunition, required “green light” background checks of gun purchasers, mandated videotaping of firearms sales, and limited the sale of firearms to only certain trained associates.
Whether smaller business in Oklahoma – or Illinois, or anywhere else – choose to follow suit will be entirely up to them, with a little help from their state legislators.
Chicago and Illinois business owners have the right to ban handguns from their place of business. We try to avoid an OK Corral situation to develop. We have created a suggested Gun Policy for Chicago and Illinois Businesses to adapt for the workplace.