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Business owners approach open carry law differently, many wait and see

A handful of local businesses have posted signs banning, or welcoming, firearms since the state's open carry law went into effect Nov. 1. But many, possibly apprehensive to offend customers, have decided to wait and see if open carry becomes an issue first.
by Jennifer Palmer Modified: November 30, 2012 at 11:46 pm •  Published: December 3, 2012
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They can ban firearms, do nothing, allow concealed but not open carry, even refuse to allow certain customers to carry a gun. It's similar to being able to refuse service to patrons not wearing a shirt or shoes, he said.

The only type of business where the law prohibits open (or concealed) handguns is a bar — defined as an establishment where alcohol is consumed if the sale of alcohol constitutes the establishment's primary source of income.

Weapons are also banned from courthouses, government buildings, schools and a handful of other institutions.

But the law allows permit holders to openly carry inside a restaurant like Chili's — which has a bar but serves mostly food — or a liquor store, which sells alcohol but doesn't allow it to be consumed on the premises, Love said.

“The Legislature was very narrow on the places prohibited by statute. I think a lot of business owners wish it wasn't that way,” Love said. For example, there are probably pastors who wish the law included churches so they wouldn't have to make a decision on what, if any, to allow, he said.

Banks, too, have taken different approaches. First Fidelity Bank has posted signs alerting customers that its branches don't allow firearms or weapons. Bank of Oklahoma, on the other hand, does not have a policy for visitors bringing weapons into the bank.

“We have banks in other states, like New Mexico, in which open carry is legal and have not experienced issues as a result,” said Andrea Myers, senior communications manager. Employees, she said, other than security personnel are not allowed to possess weapons at work.

Doug Tippens, president and chief executive of Bank of Commerce, which bans weapons, said he had two customers threaten to close their accounts when they tried to openly carry into the bank. But Tippens, who has been through a bank robbery before, said the policy is in place for the safety of the bank's staff.

“I told them I support the second amendment, but guns make my employees very nervous,” he said.

Restaurant owners have questions

Restaurants that serve alcohol have called the state ABLE Commission, as well as the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, with questions on how to handle certain situations, ABLE assistant director Jim Hughes said. For instance, what should they do if someone openly carrying sits down at the bar inside a restaurant? Can they serve him or her a drink?

The law states a person who is intoxicated can't carry a firearm.

“You can't be intoxicated but that doesn't mean you can't drink,” Hughes said.

The duty servers and bartenders already have to not serve a patron to the point of intoxication extends to someone openly carrying a firearm. If they drink too much, it's the responsibility of the business owner, not the employee, to ask them to leave, Love, the attorney, said.

But if the patron refuses, they aren't committing a gun crime — it's trespassing, Love said. The same goes for a customer openly carrying who enters a business with signs posted not allowing weapons.

by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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Q&A

Questions for businesses about open carry:

Q: Do I have to post a sign if I want to ban firearms at my business?

A: No, the statute doesn't require a sign. Business owners can state their policy verbally.

Q: Can I allow concealed firearms but not open carry?

A: Yes, what, if any, firearms are allowed inside is at the business owner's discretion.

Q: Can I prohibit someone from keeping their gun inside their car in the parking lot?

A: No, the law allows gun owners to secure the firearm inside a locked vehicle.

Q: Can I ask someone who is openly carrying to show me their permit?

A: You can ask but you can't compel them to show it. License holders, by law, are only required to show their permit to law enforcement.

Source: Attorney Matthew Love

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