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Tim Burke: A look at open carry issues in nation

Walmart recently announced that it is “respectfully requesting” that customers not openly carry guns into its stores.

Walmart’s announcement followed the shooting that killed 22 people at its store in El Paso, and it sparked similar actions by Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens. Other big chains, such as Target, Starbucks and Chipotle, have had such policies against open carry for years. Gun control groups have applauded the retailers’ moves.

But none of the retailers have banned guns in their stores outright, even though legal experts say that is something they could do. Since these stores are private property it is within their right to do so. A retailer can refuse service to anyone so long as it is not on the basis of race, religion or another protected group. By enacting these policies, the stores are giving into social pressure from anti-gun groups but risk alienating open carry advocates and gun owners.

In an increasing violent world, having the ability and training to defend yourself and other innocent bystanders, while in public is a privilege that most gun owners do not want to give up.

Gun control advocates praise the moves as progress in making open carry socially unacceptable. Gun rights advocates say that the retailers are doing nothing to restrict their ability to carry their firearms. By taking a page out of the anti-smoking handbook, gun control groups are trying to make “open carry” sociably unacceptable.

Many cigarette smokers have switched from lighting up to vaping because it has less of a social stigma associated with it and it has taken a few years for laws and regulations to catch up to the change by smokers. Will open carry advocates switch to becoming legal “concealed weapon” carriers? Perhaps, but to those gun owners who practice open carry, the act is more of an expression of their right to own and bear a firearm without government interference.

It is estimated that the number of concealed weapon carriers far outnumber open carry advocates already and is increasing exponentially. According to a report by John R. Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center, in 2018 the number of concealed handgun permits soared to over 17.25 million – a 273% increase since 2007. 7.14% of American adults have permits. In Nevada, 5.67% of the adult population has a CCW permit.

Consumers can choose to support or not support a business and its policies with their pocketbook. Last year a major manufacturer of men’s products (razor blades) thought that they should use their TV commercials to lecture men on how they needed to change their behavior. The ad depicted oafish male behavior and toxic masculinity.

Many men were offended that they were being grouped in with all men and portrayed as having this sort of behavior when they personally did not act this way. Some decided to look for alternative sources for these types of products and found companies that offered equal or superior products at a fair price without the lecture. I can only imagine the backlash if other genders had been singled out by a company and lectured on their behavior.

If you support the stance some retailers are taking toward open carry and the effort to stigmatize gun ownership, then you should embrace them with your pocketbooks. Alternatively, if you disagree then look for another business that has a different view or elects not to mix social issues and commerce. Move your consumer spending to them. Companies are in the business to make a profit and if they feel that their political or social stance is hurting or helping their bottom line they will modify their position accordingly.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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