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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Open carry decisions: Shawnee businesses mull weapons policies for new law Nov. 1

  • Shawnee area business owners are preparing for changes Thursday when Oklahoma becomes an open carry handgun state. While many area business owners say they don’t plan to have a policy or signs to prohibit firearms, several others remain undecided what to do while Shawnee Mall has definite plans in place for a no weapons policy.
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    Shawnee area business owners are preparing for changes Thursday when Oklahoma becomes an open carry handgun state. While many area business owners say they don’t plan to have a policy or signs to prohibit firearms, several others remain undecided what to do while Shawnee Mall has definite plans in place for a no weapons policy.
    Senate Bill 1733 was signed in May by Gov. Mary Fallin and amended the Self Defense Act to allow those who are licensed by the state to openly carry their firearms effective Nov. 1.
    That’s when more than 140,000 licensed Oklahomans can choose to carry openly or continue to carry their weapons concealed. There are restrictions to open carry, as weapons must be .45 caliber or less, and all firearms must be in a belt or shoulder holster.
    Even with the new law, firearms are still prohibited in federal, state or local government buildings or properties, including schools and universities. Firearms also are prohibited in bars, at arenas during sporting events and any business that elects to prohibit them. That means it’s up to private business owners to decide if and how they want to restrict entry into their business, whether allowing both open and concealed carry, concealed carry only, or not allowing firearms at all. If the latter is the case, then business owners can’t prohibit the possession or storage of a firearm inside a person’s vehicle in that business’ parking lot.
    Shawnee Mall is taking proactive measures to install signs to prohibit firearms inside the mall, but there also are other business owners who haven’t yet made a definitive decision on policies one way or another. Other local businesses report they won’t have any restrictions against their customers openly carrying firearms inside their stores.
    Phil Hartoon, owner of Hartoon’s jewelry in Shawnee, doesn’t plan on putting any restrictions on weapons at his business.
    As a carrier of a concealed weapon himself, he said a sign or restriction wouldn’t matter if a criminal wanted to come in with a weapon, so he’s not worried about his customers.
    “If I put a sign up not to carry, the only people who’ll obey is the honest people,” Hartoon said.
    At Eric’s Pharmacy, an NRA sticker is already posted on the business window, said Marketing Director Jennifer Baker. She said they’re in favor of gun carrying laws so she doesn’t expect any restrictions.
    “I don’t think there will be any signs going up here,” she said.
    Benton’s Café also doesn’t plan to restrict patrons who pack heat.
    Page 2 of 3 - Owner Sherry Wingfield said at this point, they’re not going to put any policies in place unless they experience problems.
    Dana Scott, an owner of Billy Boy Barbecue and Paul’s Place, has a concealed license himself and said there won’t be any restrictions there either.
    Walmart Spokeswoman Kayla Whaling, who said the company’s policy is to follow all state and local laws for open carry, also said there won’t be restrictions at the Shawnee store.
    “We strive to provide a safe environment for our customers and associates,” she said.
    But at the nearby Shawnee Mall, visitors there will be welcomed with new signs banning weapons inside the mall.
    General Manager Scott Kingrey said those signs have arrived and will be placed at entrances into the mall parking lots that weapons aren’t allowed inside the mall building so gun owners will know to leave them locked in their vehicles as the law allows.
    Signs also will be placed at the entrances to the building. By having signs in both places, they’re hoping not to inconvenience their customers, he said. Banning weapons once open carry becomes law was a decision that came after research and planning, including consulting with the mall’s owners and security contractors, Kingrey said.
    Owners of other Shawnee area businesses are still undecided on what to do and aren’t sure how they’ll react Thursday, so they are going to take a “wait and see” approach.
    Suzanne Gilbert, owner of Tecumseh Tag Agency, said while she is not opposed to a person’s right to bear arms, she’s also not sure how other customers might respond.
    “We do not want people to be fearful to come into a public place if someone else is carrying a gun on their hip,” she said. “We’re not sure what to do.”
    And while Gilbert said a firm decision hasn’t been made, she has been researching the issue and visiting with other tag agents for a consensus.
    Tom Willoughby, owner of Del Plaza Barbering, said he hasn’t thought a whole lot about the new law just yet so he also remains undecided.
    Frank Oliver, owner of Hardesty Grocery, said he’s also going to hold off on a decision to see what unfolds after Nov. 1.
    At Benedict Street Marketplace, “We haven’t even talked about it,” said owner Paula Barber.
    The same holds true for S&S Farm Center, where Manager Tammy Kline said they also haven’t considered the issue yet.
    Page 3 of 3 - Buford White of White’s Ace Building Center, also plans to wait and see what happens before making any decisions there, adding he’s had those on both sides of the gun issue trade at his store.
    “I don’t want to offend anyone,” White said, adding he believes people will openly carry at first, then more will continue to conceal carry as they have been doing.
    “I don’t think this will change anything too much,” White said.
     
     
     
     

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