Skip to comments.Some Virginia Businesses May Ban Armed Customers
Posted on 07/18/2004 11:04:36 AM PDT by Mulder
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) - Carrying a weapon in public is legal in Virginia, but it's also upsetting to some. One restaurant chain owner had employees at his four northern Virginia shops post signs last week prohibiting firearms and declaring themselves a "safe zone." Kevin M. Tracy, director of operations for The Bungalow, said the restaurants banned gun-toting customers in March after a man with a firearm strapped to his hip sat down in its Franconia restaurant and ordered a drink. The man properly asserted that Virginia law allows him to openly carry his weapon.
But Tracy thinks guns, with the exception of those carried by police officers, have no place in his restaurants. "People change when they have alcohol," Tracy told The Washington Post. "I think people make too many bad judgments. I've had people who were perfectly wonderful snap."
Virginia residents must have permits to carry concealed weapons, which are prohibited by law from establishments that serve alcohol -- but guns openly displayed are permitted.
Still, restaurant and other business owners in the state have the right to ban customers carrying weapons - both openly carried and concealed - on their property, said Tom Lisk, general counsel for the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association. Establishments can either post a notice or approach customers directly, he said, and people who violate the notice can be prosecuted under a trespass statute.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, said his office could not comment on whether businesses may legally ban patrons carrying guns, because it requires an "interpretation of law" that could not immediately be provided.
Many residents didn't know they had the right to pack a pistol in public until recent incidents in northern Virginia shops and restaurants. Fairfax police have said that residents have been spotted in the county with guns strapped to their hips three times in recent weeks.
Police said a group of men openly carrying guns at a Champps restaurant in Reston last month prompted a 911 call. Three days after that, an officer spotted a couple packing pistols at Reston Town Center. The instances involved members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, an organization of thousands of gun owners statewide, according to Philip Van Cleave, the group's president.
Jim Snyder, 54, of the Kingstowne area, one of the gun owners spotted at Champps, said there's an unfair perception that he and his brethren are prone to violence. He carries his Colt .45 for protection, he said.
"I'm definitely not a wannabe Rambo," said Snyder, who does not have a concealed weapons permit and must carry his gun openly. "I'd rather skulk away from a confrontation than go in. This is a tool of last resort."
The issue is expected to come up for debate in the General Assembly next year. Some lawmakers who share Tracy's concern said the debate, as in recent years, is likely to center on whether patrons should be allowed to carry guns in restaurants, such as The Bungalow, that serve alcohol.
State Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) said she'll reintroduce a bill that would prohibit openly carried guns anywhere alcohol is served.
"I think that any reasonable person would agree that alcohol and guns don't mix," Howell said. "It's better to make sure that nothing happens than be sorry afterward."
Jim Sollo, president of Virginians Against Handgun Violence, said his group believes the combination of guns and alcohol will eventually lead to trouble. He's counting on the recent episodes to stir up support for Howell's legislation next year.
"We think open carrying is dangerous. Sooner or later one of these guys is going to do something stupid or an unfortunate accident is going to happen," Sollo said.
But Van Cleave, a former Texas deputy sheriff who said most gun owners are law-abiding citizens, stressed that restaurant and other business owners already can bar weapons from their businesses if they choose. He said his members respect those choices and are advised to "politely leave" if asked.
Mike Stollenwerk, the man who was asked to leave The Bungalow that March evening, said he often openly carries his weapon in restaurants and "if people feel uncomfortable I've never noticed it."
OK, so you operate a business in Fl and you don't allow your patrons to bring guns into your premises. Fine, it's your business and that's your right. Now if you can convince the powers that be to restore the remainder of your rights as a private business owner more power to you. One reason I am no longer a private business owner is the endless mountains of regulations and red tape.
You cite liability insurance as one reason you don't allow guns in your place of business. For the record, while I lived in FL I operated two retail businesses, one in Manatee county and one in Polk county. Neither of those were posted against guns, and our liability carrier had no problem with that situation. In fact I usually carried a gun myself while alone on the Auburndale site because of the high incidence of armed robberies in Polk county. There are also some insurance companies that won't sell a homeowner policy to people who keep guns in their homes. That's their right, but I choose to deal with companies that have a more tolerant attitude toward my right to arms, both in business insurance and home insurance.
Your no guns policy may not cost you many customers in a state whose population now consists mainly of liberal octogenarian geezers from NY and NJ, but that policy won't fly here in God's country. The good mountain folks around here just don't take kindly to folks who try to restrict their right to defend themselves. Hence the retraction of the "no guns" policy by Pizza Hut.
I have reached the point of terminal boredom with this endless thread. Have a nice day.
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