[Update] Please see updated information regarding this story here. In short, Chick-Fil-A has NOT posted itself as a “gun-free zone”.[/UPDATE]
Well, now, this is interesting.
As regular readers will remember, I went to Chick-Fil-A on the first of this month to support them and show my disdain, to put it politely, for those governmental lackeys who would tell a private corporation where it can and cannot build based off nothing more than the personal opinions of that company’s president. I was, of course, openly carrying at the time, and my firearm for the day was my full-size, all-metal Baby Eagle – basically the same model the Israeli police/military forces use(d). Also, rather hard to miss, as was apparent by the occasional glance I received, and one fellow customer positively commenting on it.
The interesting part is that I seem to recall first getting in line somewhere around 1800 and being out of the store by 1700, which means I just narrowly missed this:
Today I went to Chick-Fil-A to get some “hate chicken.” I arrived at the Knoxville, Turkey Creek location at about 5:30 and the line was almost out the door. I was able to order within 10 minutes and then began to wait. With the number of orders there, the average wait time was about 30 to 45 minutes. After about 45 minutes of waiting inside the store I was approached by an employee of some fashion (I did not ascertain the rank of the employee) and was told that he knew that carrying a gun was perfectly legal and that Chick-Fil-A did not allow that. He told me to go outside and he would bring me my food.
So I spent somewhere around 40 minutes in the store, waiting to get up to the register, and then waiting for my food. For the entire time, I was in plain view of all of the customers, and while I was waiting for my food, at least six different employees walked past me on their way to giving food to other customers or taking care of miscellaneous other details. I was carrying openly, with no real attempt made on my part to conceal the handgun (apart from resting my right elbow on it, as is often my habit for obvious reasons), and not a single employee said a thing about it or me.
However, thanks to two nameless, faceless customers apparently complaining to the management at the Knoxville Chick-Fil-A about a "man with a gun", that particular establishment will be posting "no guns allowed" signage sometime this week*.
On the one hand, this particular Chick-Fil-A would not have posted / be posting its premises if the open carrier had not lawfully, peacefully, and politely (by his accounts) exercised his Constitutionally-protected rights on their property. On the other hand, Chick-Fil-A is welcome to deny service to whomever they want for whatever reasons they want**, and put up signs indicating such. On the gripping hand, putting up those signs because all of two people complained is not only stupid as hell, it appears to run directly contrary to Chick-Fil-A’s corporate policies.
To put the situation in the context of the day, if two people had complained about homosexuals holding hands while in line, would Chick-Fil-A start denying service to all homosexuals?
The gentleman who brought this to my attention, who also happens to be the proprietor of another local business, saved me from a lot of typing in his email to the local Chick-Fil-A branch:
Hello, while I was reading the TN Gun Owners forum tonight I ran across a post by a gentleman who on August 1st was told to go outside and wait for his food simply because he was legally open carrying a firearm. As a permit holder, as is my wife, and as a long time customer of both the Turkey Creek and Kingston Outlook store, I am very disappointed to hear that people’s irrational fears were chosen over the legal ,and peaceful, actions of a customer. I have visited both of your West Knoxville stores dozens of times legally armed, even a couple while open carrying, and never got as much as a crossed look from any customer, manager, or employee. I even know for a fact that there was at least one other person who open carried at your Turkey Creek store on the same day and not only got no complaints about open carrying, actually got a complement – http://www.wallsofthecity.net/2012/08/yesterday-at-chick-fil-a.html
Therefore, I am quite surprised that this gentleman was told that because two people complained about him open carrying, the stores would be posted against legal carry. I might understand if he was going around getting in people’s faces or being irresponsible by unholstering his side arm and waving it around. However, he says he was simply standing in line ordering food when asked to go outside. Even if he was acting crazy, the actions of one person should not affect the rights of other law abiding citizens.
Considering the fact that the amount of business you received that day due to people wanting to support the 1st Amendment rights of the Chick-Fil-A CEO, I am even more surprised that you would ask a peaceful customer to leave. I would have figured that considering how you all try to treat customers that you would have a similar policy to other businesses like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Kroger, and even Starbucks where a person may legally carry openly or concealed according to state law and will not be asked to leave unless they are threatening other customers. I thought before you would ask someone to leave due to another customer’s complaint that you might actually see if the complaint was warranted or if someone unjustly didn’t like the way someone else looked-which in this case two people just didn’t like the fact that they had to see a firearm in a holster on someone’s hip. To people who have irrational fear of things like legally carried firearms I would suggest that you would tell them that you would investigate their complaint, but if someone is peacefully eating, then you respect that person’s right to legally carry in your store.
I also noticed that the gentleman was told that you have to consider your business first in these kinds of issues. I understand that, and as a business owner myself I can respect that. However, I am not sure if you realize how many people here have carry permits and do carry on a regular basis that you would risk losing their business over two people’s complaint. Just in the zip codes that your two west Knox stores are in, along with touching zip codes, there are over 6500 people with carry permits. Knox county alone has almost 25,000 people with carry permits and when adding Roane and Loudon counties, since many people I know who live in those two counties visit Turkey Creek, that’s almost 35,000 people. Let alone that there are over 366,000 permit holders in TN and only 97 of them had their permits revoked last year due to felony conviction or court order-almost none due to actual crime with a firearm, I would say that permit holders are some of the most law abiding people in the state.
If you don’t think permit holders don’t vote with their wallets, you are quite wrong. There are at least two online TN Firearms forums with thousands of members that have a section just for posting businesses that have posted against carry so people are aware of businesses to avoid patronizing. The people I know with carry permits are pretty passionate about avoiding businesses that don’t allow them to carry due to the amount of money and time they had to spend to prove that they were a law abiding citizen to be able to carry a firearm to protect themselves and their families. I am certainly one of those people and have stopped shopping at places like Earthfare and Joann’s because they have posted against me being able to protect myself with a powerful tool. And while it is a little inconvenience, I find that there are plenty of other options for where I can shop, and in your case, other Chick-Fil-A’s that I can eat at and would encourage all of my friends to do the same if they value their gun rights and protecting their families.
So I would encourage you to reconsider the direction you are going with posting your stores. I don’t believe it’s in your business’s best interest or your customer’s to post because by placing a no guns sign at your door, you don’t stop any criminal that cares to do harm to your customers or employees. However, you do stop law abiding citizens that will actually follow the law and either not go in, or disarm themselves. Giving into people’s fears about an inanimate, holstered object encourages people to judge others by looks and not by their character or actions when all permit holders want to do is protect themselves.
I concur with his comments in an email to me that all concealed and open carriers in the Knoxville region should contact this store; I will try to find the time later this week to swing by the store and see if they have actually posted.
And let me get this out of the way right here and now, since I feel certain it will come up in the comments: based on the information I have at-hand, the open carrier is not the one at fault in this particular situation. I do wish he had handled things a bit differently (specifically, I would not have told the Chick-Fil-A manager how to properly post his property, which the open carrier appears to have done), but he was peacefully where he had the right to be, exercising his rights in a quiet and non-obtrusive fashion, and did (again, as far as we know) absolutely nothing wrong. On the other hand, the store manager decided that the narrow-minded bigotry of a stark minority of his customers should ironically override that store’s willingness to serve all people of all types, and thus the responsibility for the choice rests solely on his shoulders. One hopes he will change his mind.
This is functionally no different than a manager telling a Christian wearing a cross necklace outside of their clothing that they have to leave the premises because two Muslims complained; would you blame the Christian in that hypothetical situation as well?
(* – I would not waste any more time with that thread than you absolutely feel necessary; Tennessee Gun Owners members did what TGO members are wont to do in these circumstances and reflexively blamed the open carrier with all of the standard invective, hatred, and borderline viciousness they are known for. That attitude is a significant part of why I have abandoned that forum over the years.
** – Within the bounds of the laws, though I, personally, find laws against corporations "discriminating" against customers to be amusing, at best.)