Target stores announced on July 2nd that they will attempt to block residents of “open carry” jurisdictions from exercising their right to carry firearms inside the stores. While laws in communities where it is now, or will soon be, legal to carry guns openly, the national chain believes that having their customers carry them within the store will prevent it from being “safe and inviting” for either customers or employees. The company will continue to uphold all laws but requests that customers not exercise this particular right inside their stores but leave the weapons at home instead.
Target was petitioned by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America a month ago to come to this conclusion. Shannon Watts, the founder of the organization, said mothers were appalled at images they had seen of people carrying guns to the same places they “shop for diapers and toys.” The organization issued a statement thanking Target for the swift response to their petition. Its action follows suit with the decision by Chipotle restaurants in May to make the same request of its customers.
This clarification of policy comes in the wake of more and more communities across the United States voting to allow people to openly carry guns in public. This is one of the latest iterations in a national dispute over what limitations, if any, are justified with regard to the second amendment. Target’s decision to block firearms within its stores shows that it believes the safety, or at least perception of safety, of its customers and staff is not enhanced by the presence of these weapons. This is a belief that is vehemently denied by “open carry” advocates nationwide who believe their ability to respond to a potential threat in all situations will make them and others safer.
Part of Target’s decision may also have been due to an incident in a Myrtle Beach, SC store in May of 2014. A loaded gun was found in the toy section of the store along with superhero toys. The employee who found the gun was alarmed at the discovery but was able to retrieve the weapon and present it to the appropriate authorities before any children encountered it. This particular incident would not fall within the guidelines of statutes pertaining to publicly carrying guns because these laws require that the weapon be in the possession of a licensed carrier. The gun in question was handed over to authorities as a potentially stolen item and local police proceeded to investigate the matter as such.
The chain store’s decision will not likely end debate over the second amendment or gun safety but it serves as a reminder that rights and privileges are often seen differently from different perspectives and in different situations. Even the National Rifle Association has had a mixed response to the issue of whether guns should be allowed anywhere and everywhere, as it initially criticized Texas gun rights advocates for publicly carrying guns into the stores but later recanted the position. Target recognizes this as “a complicated issue” but believes that blocking firearms within its stores best serves its interests and those of the people it serves.
By David Morris