Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Half Price Books: Victim Rich Zones

I received a letter to the effect that making their stores "gun free zones" (or sitting duck zones or victim rich zones) has been company policy for 14 years. Here is the letter. My response follows:

March 11,2008

Re: Half Price Books — No Guns Policy

Dear Mr. Carroll:

Thank you for your letter dated May 4, 2008 [sic.] and the earlier letter to the manager of one of our Columbus stores.

In February 22, 1996, our Board of Directors passed a resolution making all of our stores and facilities gun free. I am pleased to report that since the “gun free” policy was implemented, not a single person, customer or employee, has been the victim of gun violence in any of our stores or other facilities.

We have also researched whether or not states which have concealed weapons laws have seen a reduction in crime. So far, I have not found any correlation between the reduction in crime in right to carry states and all of the other states.

I regret that you believe you should boycott our stores because we do not want people carrying guns in our stores.

If you change your mind, you are welcome in any of our stores if you will follow our no guns policy.

John Albach
General Counsel

I sent my response today:

March 19, 2008

Mr. John Albach Esq.
General Counsel
Half Price Books
5803 East Northwest Highway
DallasTX 75231

Re: Concealed Carry in Half Price Stores

Dear Mr. Albach,

Thank you for your letter of March 11, 2008.

I am a lawyer in private practice. As part of my practice, I became chairman of the board of a nonprofit organization involved in counterterrorism activities. Last summer our security people strongly recommended that I obtain the necessary training and obtain a permit for concealed carry of a firearm.

Not being a fool, I did it.

Before that advice, I did not own a gun. I had never shot a handgun before, but I learned. Being a curious, inquisitive type, I also who decided to learn all that I could about concealed carry -- which was really a stretch out of my box. I have read pretty much everything I could on the subject of guns, concealed carry, gun rights, and crime.

According to your letter, the board voted on February 22, 1996, to make all of the Half-Price Bookstores gun free zones. Wow. So much has happened in 14 years.

Among other things, it has become plain that "gun free zones" are dangerous places if you do not want to be the victim of a gun crime. Gun free zones attract armed robbers and homicidal maniacs, because of the easy victims they present: In just the last 13 months there have been at least the following massacres of defenseless victims in gun free zones:

· February 14, 2008, Northern Illinois University, 5 dead, 40 wounded;

· February 2, 2008, Lane Bryant, Tinly Park, Illinois. 5 dead, 1 wounded;

· December 6, 2007, Westwood Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, 8 dead, 5 wounded;

· April 29, 2007, Ward Parkway Center, Kansas City MO, 1 dead;

· April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech University, 32 dead, 17 wounded;

· February 12, 2007, Trolley Square mall, Salt lake City UT, 5 dead, 4 wounded.

I doubt that any rational person actually thinks that a homicidal maniac or an armed robber will obey a gun free zone sign.

Your letter states that you have researched whether or not states which have concealed carry have seen a reduction in crime, but you have not found a correlation. The most comprehensive independent study, looking at all of the 3084 counties in the United States was done by John R. Lott, Jr. and David B. Mustard. Journal of Legal Studies (v.26, no.1, pages 1-68, January 1997. The study was not funded by the NRA or any pro gun organization. Mr. Lott says he did not own a gun until his study showed him how important gun ownership was to his safety. Professor David L. Mustard writes in "Culture Affects Our Beliefs About Firearms, But Data Are Also Important," 151 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1387 (2003):

When I started my research on guns in 1995, I passionately disliked firearms. .... My views on this subject were formed primarily by media accounts of firearms, which unknowingly to me systematically emphasized the costs of firearms while virtually ignoring their benefits. I thought it obvious that passing laws that permitted law abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms would create many problems. [But research has convinced me that]... laws that require [right-to-carry] permits to be granted unless the applicant has a criminal history or history of significant mental illness reduced violent crime and have no impact on accidental deaths.

Mr. Lott has elaborated on the study in his book, More Guns, Less Crime (1998 and 2000), University of Chicago Press, with additional follow ups in: The Bias Against Guns (2002), Regnery Publishing, Straight Shooting: Firearms, Economics and Public Policy (2006), Regnery Publishing. The methodology of the studies has never been successfully assailed, but some of the reading is a bit thick, unless you have a background in economics (which I do). According to Mr. Lott, two-thirds of the studies he has seen indicated that right-to-carry laws reduce crime.

I was reading about Michigan yesterday. In the six years since Michigan enacted its concealed carry law., violent crime has dropped significantly. One in sixty-five Michigan citizens has a concealed carry permit.

There are now 40 right-to-carry states. That is a large number of potential customers that Half Price is turning off and turning away.

From a liability standpoint, consider that you are now on notice that gun free zones are dangerous to the employees and the public. If there is an unfortunate incident in one of your Ohio stores, You may now be liable to employees on a Blankenship claim (so called because of Blankenship v. Cincinnati Milacron Chemicals, Inc., 69 Ohio St.2d 608, 433 N.E.2d 572 (Ohio 1982) whose harsh anti-employer ruling was almost modified by a tort reform bill ruled unconstitutional). The employee could beat the employer's immunity by asserting in essence that the employer knowingly exposed the employee to a risk of substantially certain injury from a "high risk" of harm (whatever that means). Fyffe v. Jeno's Inc. (1991), 59 Ohio St.3d 115.

Similarly, there is a significant risk of liability to customers, not only for negligence but possibly punitive damages for knowingly exposing the customers to the dangers of "gun free zones" which have a "high risk" of harm. A stretch? I don't know. Ohioans (including presumably jurors) favor concealed carry by a large margin.

On the other hand, Ohio by statute protects private employers from injuries caused by acts of concealed carry permit holders. This statutory immunity is in RC 2923.126(C)(2)(a):

(2)(a) A private employer shall be immune from liability in a civil action for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that allegedly was caused by or related to a licensee bringing a handgun onto the premises or property of the private employer, including motor vehicles owned by the private employer, unless the private employer acted with malicious purpose. A private employer is immune from liability in a civil action for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that allegedly was caused by or related to the private employer's decision to permit a licensee to bring, or prohibit a licensee from bringing, a handgun onto the premises or property of the private employer. As used in this division, "private employer" includes a private college, university, or other institution of higher education.

In Ohio, at least, a private employer appears to have greater legal protection by allowing concealed carry in its stores than by prohibiting it.

Of course, any business has the right to display "gun free zone" size. Every business has a right to act unwisely.

Contrary to your suggestion, I am not boycotting your stores. I and other law-abiding citizens have been disinvited by your policy.

I am an impulse stopper. However, I no longer have an impulse to stop if I have to go to the effort of disarming, safely storing my gun as required by Ohio law, and then entering your store which I know to be unsafe. I will submit your letter to the Ohioans for Concealed Carry Association's Do Not Patronize While Carrying list, so everyone can follow your rules (or avoid your stores, of course). If you change your mind, though, let me know and I will get you off the list.

In view of the legal situation in Ohio favorable to those who permit concealed carry, I respectfully request that the Board of Directors of Half-Price Books consider removing the "gun free zones" from its Ohio stores, because as an Ohio employer, it is the responsible thing to do.


David Carroll

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done! Keep us informed if he replies, eh?

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