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Oklahoma business owners approach open-carry law in varied ways

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: December 1, 2012 at 1:03 am •  Published: December 2, 2012
/articleid/3733879/1/pictures/1897288">Photo - More than 100 people attended an informational session about the open-carry law at H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City.Photo provided by H&H Shooting Sports
More than 100 people attended an informational session about the open-carry law at H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City.Photo provided by H&H Shooting Sports

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 also are banned from courthouses, government buildings, schools and a few other institutions.

The law allows permit holders to openly carry inside a restaurant such as 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 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 other than security personnel are not allowed to possess weapons at work, she said.

Doug Tippens, president and chief executive of Bank of Commerce, which bans weapons, said two customers threatened to close their accounts when they tried to openly carry in the bank. But Tippens, who has been through a bank robbery, 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

Officials with restaurants that serve alcohol have called the state Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement 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 at the bar inside a restaurant? Can they serve the person 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 that servers and bartenders already have to not serve a patron to the point of intoxication extends to someone openly carrying a firearm. If someone drinks too much, it’s the responsibility of the business owner, not the employee, to ask the person to leave, attorney Love said.

If the patron refuses, the person isn’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.

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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 a gun inside his or her 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 his or her 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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