This article is the first in a three-part series on issues surrounding the open carry of firearms.
There has been a very strange scene in many Kroger stores across the nation. In states including Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia and Texas many pro-firearm advocates may be seen carrying rifles while doing their normal grocery shopping. They are openly carrying these firearms in protest of the recent stance by stores such as Target and Starbucks which have sided with groups like Moms Demand Action by urging customers to not carry firearms in their stores. Moms Demand Action is a group which has led the debate in trying to encourage stores to prohibit customers from carrying firearms while shopping at their stores. Thus, many of these pro-firearm demonstrations have ensued in response to the group’s demands of many stores including Kroger to prohibit individuals from openly carrying firearms in their stores.
Much of this controversy started when Starbucks took a stance on the gun issue by asking their customers to “leave their guns at home” while not explicitly prohibiting customers from carrying firearms in their stores. After this response by Starbucks public debate ensued and the controversy spilled over to many different companies and stores across the nation. Target and Jack in the Box have come on the same side of the debate as Starbucks both “asked customers not to bring in guns, but did not ban them outright.”
In some states these companies who are prohibiting individuals from openly carry firearms are restricting individuals more than the state law requires. Although it is the businesses’ right to prohibit individuals from carrying firearms of any kind in their stores, many states are not as restrictive as companies like Target and Starbucks on the open carry of firearms. For instance, in Texas the legislature has explicitly made it unlawful to openly carry a handgun in public while it is permissible to openly carry a rifle or long gun in public. Therefore, without explicit action taken by businesses the open carry of rifles and long guns by these pro-firearm supporters may be permissible in jurisdictions with laws similar to those of Texas.
Most recently this debate has spilled over to Kroger who has found itself caught in-between these two groups.
In its response Kroger has seemed to try to stay out of the issue all together. In its “policy on customers carrying firearms in stores” Kroger indicates that they will “follow the state and local laws and … ask customers to be respectful of other customers while shopping.” They also indicated that they know their customers stand on both sides of the issue and are asking both sides to remain respectful to each other. Therefore, these different companies have taken very different approaches to this firearm issue and it is not likely that the debate will stop with Kroger. It seems that the debate will continue until the legislature in each state comes out on one side explicitly.