Dear Wal-Mart Management
This is a letter of thanks and perhaps constructive criticism. I am a college graduate who works as .... I also, like some other 50,000+ Utahans, carry a firearm for protection of myself, my family and others. I have been issued a Utah Firearm Permit. Every day, I carry a firearm in a holster on my belt in a visible manner. This is called “Open Carry.”
I weekly shop at the ... Wal-Mart .... I had a GOOD experience recently as I was shopping while openly carrying my firearm, as I usually do. On Tuesday, ... I was shopping with my Wife and four Kids at about 6pm.
While we were walking between infants and girl’s clothing, a friendly associate named ... stopped me. She asked me, “Is that a real gun?” To which I replied that is was. She then asked me to wait there because she needed to get hold of a manager.
Sometime later she returned and said that she was able to talk to someone just under the co-manager who told her that she is not allowed to ask to see my permit, but that she can ask me if I have a permit. I replied that I did have one. She then explained that there were some issues earlier about people illegally carrying or not having permits. Our conversation was quickly joined by another man and woman who were, I assume, shift managers.
Everyone, including myself, was very friendly. The conversation did bring up a few things that made me think that they were misinformed on the legality of carrying with or without a permit. In Utah, a person can legally carry a firearm without a permit so long as it is carried openly and it does not have a round in the chamber (which an associate cannot check).
Carry of a firearm can be done in several different ways, each offering its own advantage. Concealed carry is the most inconspicuous. Most everyday people feel more comfortable concealing a firearm due their own social or tactical reasons. Someone who carries a concealed firearm MUST have a Firearm Permit. They MUST be at least 21 years old (in most cases) and pass a FBI background check to obtain such a permit.
Open carry is another method used my most Law Enforcement and Security Officers. It is also used by a growing number of everyday people, like me. Open carry has been proven as tactically superior, but most find this method socially uncomfortable. Someone with a clean criminal record may open carry without a permit at age of 18. However, most open carriers also have a permit because it lifts other restrictions.
As far as your customer’s personal rights are concerned, under all relevant law, a person in Utah may Openly Carry at age 18 at any store. A person may also Concealed Carry with a Permit at age 21 at any store. As far as Wal-Mart stores are affected, because it is private property, Wal-Mart may ask ANYONE to leave their store with ANY reason so long as it is without regards to race, religion, or gender.
I’ve been asked by a greeter in the past ... if I was a cop. When I said no I told him that I would cover up if he wanted. This brought up two concerns. First, some legal open carriers cannot legally cover up. Second, most people who carry for self protection are not cops. Being asked “Are you a cop?” is a bad opening to an understanding conversation because it has a false assumption that only cops can carry.
If an associate suspects anyone of carrying a firearm, and wishes to approach them, I’d recommend a conversation based on legality, not false assumptions or stereotypes. As an opening line they may ask “Are you carrying a concealed firearm?” if it is concealed or ask “Is that a real gun?” if it is open. Then, the only question that is really needed is: “Is it legal for you to carry that?”
If the experience I had reflects state-wide Wal-Mart policy, I am glad to see Wal-Mart choosing the middle ground by asking customers to follow the local law, nothing more and nothing less.