Can Businesses Ban Gun Owners?

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on June 17, 2016 1:09 PM

The owner of two restaurants in Portland, Maine ignited a national debate after she claimed on Facebook that she would no longer allow owners of semi-automatic rifles in her businesses. Anne Verrill's post, which has since been removed, raises interesting questions, one of which is: can she do that?

Actually, it seems highly unlikely. Let's consider the legality and practicality of the proposal.

Specific Prohibition

Anne Verrill is not opposed to gun ownership and does not want Maine gun owners stripped of hunting rifles. But she considers semi-automatic weapons to be tools of war and different from those for sport. She said that she had to speak up in order to be able to later face her children.

"When my children grow up and they ask me what I did to help change the course of gun violence will I say to them, 'I liked some Facebook memes and talked to like-minded people about our outrage and sadness,'" she said in a statement to local station WMTW News 8. "Or will I say that I used the loudest voice I knew to shout my outrage and condemn the violence and beg for change in the most effective way I could see. Will I stand on the right side of history?"

Practically Speaking

Although Verrill's sentiment reflects a widespread frustration with online communication, it's not clear that she can implement a ban like the one she proposed. "I just couldn't figure out how she would make that work," said Jeff Weinstein, president of the Maine Gun Owners Association. He suggested posting signs banning guns at the restaurants but this suggestion seems to miss the point.

The proposal was not to keep guns out of the restaurant but reportedly to keep out people who support ownership of a certain type of gun. That is much more complicated to do than banning guns and would be practically impossible to enforce -- anyone who wants to eat badly enough can just lie about their feelings about semi-automatic weapons.

Legally Speaking

Gun owners may carry a weapon in any place that they are licensed and permitted to carry, which is to say, it's OK if it's OK. An individual business, or even a chain, may state its preferences in a policy and that is generally legal too, according to Restaurants.com, which in 2013 wrote that gun bans were increasingly popular in eateries. But it also notes the existence of restaurants with the opposite approach. Some businesses specifically welcome gun owners, and some employers have policies barring specific types of weapons.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are concerned about guns at your business or any other aspect of operations, speak to a lawyer. Get guidance on local laws and make sure you do what is best for you and your business.

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