Those who own firearms and carry them for self-defense are used to finding businesses that discriminate against them by posting “No Firearms Allowed” signs, in the (false) hope of providing a “safe location” for employees and/or customers. In some states, signs like that are nothing more than polite requests, carrying no force of law. In others, and in certain “sensitive” locations, it is a serious crime to carry a firearm.
In most cases, police officers are exempt from the silliness of such signs. Not that an officer's life is worth any more or less than anyone else, but they have traditionally been seen as the “only ones” capable of properly carrying and handling firearms in public in the eyes of many businesses.
Not so in a Denny's restaurant in Belleville, IL. According to news reports, five plain-clothes detectives were enjoying a meal in the restaurant when a customer noticed one of them carrying a gun. Reports say that all of them were also wearing badges either on their belt or around their neck. A manager approached the group and told them that they would have to take their guns back to their cars, as it was “company policy” to allow only uniformed officers to carry firearms, and the business was clearly posted as such.
The detectives decided to leave, and noticed that there was no such sign posted at the entrance. Another manager attempted to smooth out the situation and told the officers that they were indeed welcome to stay, but it was too late. The damage was done.
The Belleville Police Chief issued a statement saying that he had banned on-duty officers from eating at the Denny's, calling the incident an act of “political stupidness.”
Indeed it is. The incident started because a patron complained about seeing a holstered firearm being carried by someone who was not in uniform. Another patron said he could understand the concern of seeing someone carrying a gun while not in uniform. But in reality, it's a matter of perception. Illinois is the only state that does not allow residents to carry firearms for self-defense at all, so the sight of law abiding citizens exercising their rights is very uncommon. In other states, citizens can be seen “open carrying” on a regular basis. In fact, a number of states allow their citizens to carry openly with no permit required at all.
Denny's corporate office states that this is a huge misunderstanding, and that armed officers are always welcome in their restaurants regardless of whether or not they are in uniform. But does that “privilege” carry over to citizens who believe it is their right to protect themselves when a peace officer is not close by? Or does Denny's still subscribe to the “only ones” theory? Certainly, crime never happens in a restaurant, and patrons od Denny's never have to worry about being attacked while eating their meals, right? (Doing a quick Google search will certainly poke a hole in that theory, with reports of shootings at Denny's popping up regularly: Parkland, Washington, Boiling Springs, South Carolina, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma being four stories just for starters.)
The hoplophobia displayed by the patrons and employees at this Denny's can almost be excused since their home state is the center of the universe when it comes to anti-firearms attitudes. Still, there is an old saying that rings true in this case: “Rights, like muscles, must be exercised on a regular basis, no matter how painful, lest they become useless.” Citizens need to understand that there will always be those who are shocked or concerned when they see a properly holstered firearm, but it is a matter of education. Those who believe that it is an inalienable right to carry a firearm for self-defense will occasionally be the subject of hard stares, hushed whispers, and even the chance of an encounter with law enforcement. But the right action is not to act with outrage, but attempt to educate. Failing that, the best course of action is to simply boycott any business that believes a “No Firearms Allowed” sign creates a safe area. With enough education and pressure, attitudes will change.
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