Photo credit: Mike Mozart (CC-By-2.0)

This week, Walmart announced that they would end their sales of handgun ammunition and handguns in Alaska (they already stopped selling AR-15s, its ammunition, and handguns everywhere except Alaska). Along with that announcement they asked their customers to not open carry in the store.

Doug McMillon, the CEO of Walmart, wrote an open letter to his associates, in it, he explained the change on open carrying in stores:

As it relates to safety in our stores, there have been multiple incidents since El Paso where individuals attempting to make a statement and test our response have entered our stores carrying weapons in a way that frightened or concerned our associates and customers. We have also had well-intentioned customers acting lawfully that have inadvertently caused a store to be evacuated and local law enforcement to be called to respond. These incidents are concerning and we would like to avoid them, so we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores or Sam’s Clubs in states where “open carry” is permitted – unless they are authorized law enforcement officers.

We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results. We hope that everyone will understand the circumstances that led to this new policy and will respect the concerns of their fellow shoppers and our associates. As it relates to concealed carry by customers with permits, there is no change to our policy or approach

A number of people told me that Walmart bans weapons from Walmart stores and Sams Club stores. This is not a corporate policy. I looked at their official policy and it reads, “We will continue to follow state and local laws regarding concealed carry permit holders.”

So if your local Walmart or Sams Club has “a no guns permitted” sign displayed it’s likely due to a state law or local ordinance, NOT corporate policy.

I don’t say this to defend Walmart’s decision. Their rationale for requesting that people do not open carry in their stores, however, illustrates some of the reasons I don’t believe open carrying is wise even though I think it should be legal.

I’ve seen some claim that Walmart and other businesses do not have the right to infringe on our right to keep and bear arms including the right to open carry.

Walmart is not Congress, a state legislature, or a city council however. They are under no constitutional or legal requirement to protect our 2nd Amendment rights. They are a private business and their property is private property. They have the right to set the rules as to what can or can not come into their stores.

Notice I said what can come in, not who, which is why these policies are not on the same level as public accommodation laws (which is an entirely different subject that I’ve written plenty about).

You do not have the right to bring your gun onto private property without their permission. If you do, you can probably be criminally charged if they decide to call law enforcement.

We also have free speech protected by the First Amendment, but that does not mean we can set up in the middle of Walmart to give a speech, protest inside the store, or yell profanity at other customers and Walmart associates.

We have the freedom of religion, also protected by the First Amendment, but a business can tell us to not hold a prayer meeting inside their store or hand out religious material because it’s their property.

Let’s personalize this. Do you think you should be allowed to bring a gun into someone’s home if they do not want it there? Don’t they have a say when it comes to their own property? Even though we have the right to free speech wouldn’t you kick someone out of your house if they start insulting and verbally attacking your family? I would. They have the right to say what they said, but they can say it elsewhere.

Walmart’s announcement is an example of conflicting liberty interests.

No one is legally compelled to shop at Walmart or anywhere else. If you disagree with a business’ corporate policy, you are free to shop elsewhere or follow whatever their policy dictates whether it is not to open carry or carry at all.

Our right to keep and bear arms does not trump private property owners’ rights.

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