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Retailers face repercussions of no-open-carry policies

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Albertsons joined a chorus of retailers nationwide asking patrons not to open carry firearms in their stores. Photo by Steve Sinovic

The gun debate has hit the retail sector, with a number of companies enacting no-open-carry policies and some organizations advocating for bills to limit businesses’ ability to take that step.

Albertsons, Kroger (the parent company of Idaho retailer Fred Meyer), Walmart and Walgreens have recently implemented policies asking patrons not to open carry firearms, although it is typically legal for Idahoans to do so. CVS asked customers not to bring firearms into its facilities at all.

These policies have been initiated since August 3, when 22 people were killed in a mass shooting at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

“Kroger is respectfully asking that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores, other than authorized law enforcement officers,” said Jeffrey Temple, director of corporate affairs for Fred Meyer Stores Inc., in a statement.

The Kroger chain also stopped selling firearms in March 2018.

Previously, Costco, Starbucks and Target issued similar requests or, in the case of Costco, outright forbid firearms. As a membership organization, Costco can legally create such rules for members.

Gun rights supporters respond

The policies have generated calls for boycotts, open-carry demonstrations and legislation that makes it more difficult for businesses to enact such policies.

In Texas, businesses that wish to ban any of three kinds of gun carrying in their facilities need to post a sign forbidding each type of carry. Signs must follow requirements on the size and shape of lettering, size of the signs and where they are placed.

One Idaho conservative blogger took another tack.

“I encourage our elected Republicans to pass a law clearly stating as a condition of receiving a business license in Idaho to serve the general public; they must serve all persons who are lawfully exercising their Idaho constitutional rights,” wrote Alex Barron, creator of the Charles Carroll Society, named after the longest-lived signer of the Declaration of Independence. “I feel this is a good compromise between property and gun rights.”

Barron did not respond to a request for comment.

photo of greg pruett

Greg Pruett

The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance does not plan to call for such legislation, said Greg Pruett, president of the organization, who stressed that he feels “private businesses can do as they wish with their own property.”

“Our organization has no intention at this time of filing any kind of suit or seeking a change to the law similar to what they have in Texas,” he said in an email.

Pruett did suggest that retailers that took such a stance might be boycotted.

“It is unfortunate that some businesses based in Idaho, such as Albertsons, have gone down this route,” he said. “As companies take a stand on the right to keep and bear arms, we will let the public know about it. Citizens will then decide for themselves to continue their relationship with those businesses or finding a new place to shop.”

Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, struck a similar tone.

“I am very pro-gun and pro-2nd Amendment,” he said in an email message. “However, I will not support such legislation. I also believe in private property rights. Private property owners have the right to choose who they want on their property.”

Christensen said he also has the right to “not give them my money.”

In February, Christensen was approached by John Berryhill, proprietor of the downtown Boise restaurant Bacon, for open-carrying in his establishment, as first reported on Idaho News Channel 2 KBOI.

Berryhill did not respond to a request for comment from Idaho Business Review.

WinCo Foods, an Idaho grocery chain that has not enacted policies against open carry, did not respond to requests for comment. Ridley’s Family Markets, another chain that has not enacted policies, would not comment.

About Sharon Fisher