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Oklahoma businesses have mixed-bag approach to open carry law

The Nov. 1 gun law change is a nonevent for some Oklahoma businesses, but others will wait to see whether visible guns will comfort or bother customers.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: October 29, 2012
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Permit or not, those who carry guns in Oklahoma are required to respect the prerogative of individual businesses before taking their weapons onto the property.

However, when the new open carry legislation becomes law on Thursday, some businesses that don't currently publicize a gun policy might find themselves in an awkward predicament.

Many banks, gas stations and professional offices already post on their doors or in their employee handbooks signs and policies that prohibit firearms on the property. Open carry will not change anything for these businesses, except employees now maintain the right to store a firearm in their vehicle on company property.

But some Oklahoma business owners currently comfortable with concealed carry are less excited about the prospect of people carrying their handguns openly inside the premises.

“I think it's less on the intent of the customer and more along the lines of the comfort of our customers,” said Will Miller, co-owner of Absolute Diamond & Gold Buyers, which buys and sells fine jewelry and coins in Oklahoma City. “You know not everybody's comfortable with it and we understand that. I do believe if a customer was to come in with open carry, I might ask, due to the nature of the business, ‘would you please conceal it while you're in the store?'”

Absolute does not have a gun policy stickered to its door, and Miller said he has no intention to put one up. His employees are allowed to carry a gun concealed while at work, and as a security precaution one of his men — a longtime Air Force veteran — carries his openly as a deterrent.

He said he will continue that in-house policy as well.

“Other people don't need to know that I'm carrying. It's not a show of strength, if you will, or something like that,” he said. “I don't mean to draw attention to myself or anything like that; it's there for a purpose and I carry it for that purpose.”

Ian Pugh, co-owner of Charlie's Sports Grill, in Choctaw, and its sister restaurant, Charlie's Lakeside, in Eufaula, has the same attitude.

A former reserve sheriff's deputy, said he supports the right of his customers to carry their weapon concealed. Open carry, however, is a different story.

“You certainly wouldn't want someone sitting on the bar side with a pistol visible, so probably what we're going to end up doing is some creatively worded sign like, ‘No visible weapons,' or something like that,” Pugh said. “Perception is everything in a small town and I would be terrified to get the perception, ‘Don't go there because everybody carries guns.'”

Others said that even after the new law goes into effect, they will continue to operate without a stated policy that trumps the state law.

Barden Kellum, director of operations for OnCue Express, a chain of convenience stores and gas stations based in Stillwater, said that unless there are problems, his company will allow open carrying of firearms by customers.

“I prefer people don't carry guns in the stores, but we're not going to start out that way,” Kellum said. “We're going to start out seeing where this goes, and hopefully we don't have an incident. If everybody's carrying guns maybe employees are safer, or maybe they're more at risk — we just don't know yet. If somebody's going to rob you today, they're obviously not going to show it coming in, so if a guy's coming in, at least you know what you're dealing with because it's visual.”

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