How to react if approached about carrying a firearm in a store

by Sean Maloney

Because of the recent murders committed in Texas and Ohio, and the resulting knee-jerk reactions, more and more stores that we regularly patronize are now banning open carry, and sometimes concealed carry, of firearms inside their retail establishments.

I am often asked about what to do when you are confronted about carrying a firearm in a store and asked to leave. Whether the store is posted in non conspicuous manner, resulting in your not seeing the “no guns” sign, or the store has not posted, or an employee or manager does not understand the store's policy and local laws regarding carrying a firearm, the answer is always the same: politely and quietly leave the store.

After you exit, it's up to you whether to disarm and reenter or choose to take your business elsewhere, and perhaps encourage your fellow armed citizens to do the same.

If you choose to investigate further, because the establishment is one that you regularly do business with or you suspect that the employee who requested that you leave has done so improperly, politely ask for a manager to meet you outside to discuss the matter.

Often, employees of a store confuse the “no gun policy” stated in their employee manual with store policy regarding firearms applied to customers. Many times, the lawful carry of firearms by store patrons are permitted and encouraged, however prohibited for employees.

Once the store policy is confirmed by a manager or a member of security, politely and quietly go on your way. Please do the rest of us a favor and do not ask them to post a “no gun sign.” In these situations, what the rest of don’t know keeps us protected.

As a law-abiding citizen, you are not violating a law if you unknowingly and unintentionally violate a store policy. You do not have to identify yourself, or show them your ID, or sign anything. Once again, politely and quietly leave the premises.

However, if the police have been called or are involved, and you are asked to identify yourself, you should do so to the police only, in a quite, polite manner. In the unlikely event that the police cite you and ask you to sign a summons to appear in court, sign the summons, otherwise it will leave the police with no other choice but to arrest you.

If the police ask you to sign some type of document from the store, politely advise them that you do not sign anything without your lawyer present and leave it at that. You have committed no trespass if this is the first time the police have confronted you at this business. You have committed no crime, so there is nothing to sign. Politely ask if you are free to leave. If so, go on your way.

As I regularly advise, don't argue your rights with a police officer. Let your lawyer do that for you later in front of a Judge. So too, this is not the time or the place to argue store policy with the police, who neither set store policy nor make any determination regarding store policy.

As law-abiding gun owners who seek to provide our own means of self-defense, we have nothing to gain by causing a scene or by chastising police officers simply doing their job.

Sean Maloney is a Criminal Defense Attorney practicing in all areas of firearm-related law, a multi-discipline firearms instructor, Leader and Legal Counsel with Buckeye Firearms Association, and co-founder of Second Call Defense.