There's law, and there's commerce.
There are Second Amendment rights, and there are the needs of customers, workers and bosses to feel safe while conducting business.
There is heightened post-Newtown concern about gun violence, and there is the way most Idaho businesses deal with customers who carry guns openly: the same as before.
Idaho allows most people to carry guns openly and qualified people to carry them concealed. It also allows private-property owners to prohibit weapons on their property. Some businesses that cater to consumers prohibit them. Some don't. Some are trying to figure out whether they should or not.
WINCO: AVOIDING CONFRONTATIONS
Take WinCo. With 86 grocery stores in seven states and more than 14,000 employees, the Boise retailer understands how touchy it can be to keep the customers satisfied.
"There is a certain component of the populace that makes it a point to openly carry firearms nearly everywhere they go, which occasionally includes grocery shopping," says Michael Read, WinCo's vice president of public and legal affairs. "And so we've been struggling internally for a couple of years to determine what, if anything, we ought to do."
WinCo executives know the open display of a firearm can make other customers uncomfortable. But the company doesn't ban firearms from its stores.
"Part of the thinking," Read says, "is that many people who carry firearms do so with a concealed weapons permit. And if they are properly permitted and have the weapon concealed if we knew about it, I guess we could still ask them to leave the firearm outside the store, because it is private property. But we're certainly not going to get into the business of trying to ascertain whether anyone might be carrying a concealed weapon."
Asking someone to leave or to store a firearm in a vehicle "tends to turn into a confrontation," Read says. "At that point you have to acknowledge that the individual has the right to carry the firearm openly if he is properly licensed, and explain that your private property rights trump his right to pack a firearm openly. Often they don't agree, and it becomes a bigger hassle, frankly, and more disruptive to store operations and potentially more hurtful to sales than if you just ignore it, even though some other customers may be nervous."
"So we have elected for the time being not to do anything."
At least WinCo is forthright about it. Some businesses contacted for this article simply declined to respond. They may want to avoid disclosing tactical security measures or offending pro- or anti-gun customers.
4 REASONS TO CARRY GUNS
People typically carry guns into stores for:
To make a public statement about the legal right to carry.
To do violent harm to others.
To commit a robbery.
The Boise Police Department says it has seen no increase in open-carry confrontations recently. But Curt Crum, a department manager, says officers are routinely called to malls and large retail areas.
"There are certain businesses here in town that we do hear from every couple of weeks that there's somebody on their property openly carrying," Crum says. "They're just being prudent for the kind of atmosphere they want to promote."
CARRIERS WELCOME HERE
Some stores and restaurants have no problem with customers carrying guns openly. One is Moon's Kitchen Cafe, a diner at 712 W. Idaho St. in Downtown Boise with a long tradition and a new owner. Gary Torrey took the reins in July.
Having someone enter his restaurant with a handgun on his hip "doesn't bother me at all," Torrey says, though he has yet to see it happen.
"We don't sell alcohol here, and that makes a difference how I feel about it," he says.
Guns also are welcome at the Black Bear Diner, near the Edwards 22 theater complex off Overland Road. Steven Wong, the franchise owner of this and three other Black Bear Diners in Iowa and Utah, has worked in the restaurant industry since 1968. A gun owner, Wong has allowed a local pro-carry group, Idaho Carry, Open & Concealed (formerly Idaho Open Carry) to meet in his Boise diner.
"They're all adults, and they behave themselves," Wong says.
BUSINESSES REPORT FEW PROBLEMS
Other businesses say they've never needed to confront a customer or call police.
Dave Thomas, co-owner of High Desert Harley Davidson off Overland Road in Meridian, says his staff is trained to assess whether someone carrying a gun could cause a problem, based on the customer's demeanor and behavior.
"I've never seen anybody walk in with a rifle or anything like that," he says. "My customers don't - I don't think - carry firearms more than any other [group of] customers."
At Lithia Ford Lincoln, at West Fairview Avenue and North Maple Grove Road, General Manager Jim Sterk says he sometimes sees customers carrying sidearms on their hips or keeping weapons in cars the dealership appraises for trade-ins.
"There'll be a gun in the map pocket or center console, but it's just not something we've given a second thought about," Sterk says. "Maybe we should. I don't know. I've run stores for 25 years here and in Colorado, and I've never had an issue come up. No fear from a salesperson or an employee."
Idaho businesses don't post restrictions on firearms as commonly as businesses in some other states, says Boise lawyer Alexandria Chris Streich.
"I think generally Idaho is more supportive of Second Amendment rights," Streich says. "It's definitely a hot topic right now. You see business owners concerned about what might happen on their property, and they're trying to prevent issues and allay fears of customers, but you see private citizens who are concerned about being able to defend themselves."
STARBUCKS: SPLITTING THE POLICY
Some businesses that operate in multiple states allow guns in open-carry states like Idaho but not elsewhere. That's the approach taken by Starbucks, with 18,000 retail coffee shops in 60 countries, including more than two dozen outlets in the Treasure Valley.
"Starbucks deeply respects the views of our customers and recognizes there is significant and genuine passion surrounding open carry weapons laws," the company said through a spokesman who asked to remain unidentified. "We comply with local laws and statutes in the communities we serve. Our longstanding approach to this topic remains unchanged, and we abide by the laws that permit open carry. Where these laws don't exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited.
"As the public debate around this topic continues, we encourage customers and advocacy groups from both sides to share their input with their public officials. We are extremely sensitive to the issue of gun violence in our society and believe that supporting local laws is the right way for us to ensure a safe environment for both our partners (employees) and customers."
Lennon S. Reid: email@example.com