An Open Letter to Target Interim CEO, John Mulligan

Filed in PoliticsTags: CCW, Second Amendment

I am a concealed-carry permit holder, and a long-time Target patron. Unfortunately, due to debatable advocacy tactics on the part of some Open Carry groups, and the Astroturfed response of the Michael Bloomberg-funded Moms Demand Action, Target was dragged into a foray in which I doubt your corporation really cared to find itself involved. In response, you issued a corporate statement "respectfully requesting" patrons to leave their guns at home.

A reading of the statement seems clear that it was intended to do little more than to shut up a busy-body activist group, without invoking any legal compulsion of Target patrons to comply. Your approach is identical to that of Starbucks last year, as well as Chipotle, Sonic, and Chili's recently. The problem with this approach is two-fold. First, it villianizes a hundred million, law-abiding, gun-owning citizens due to the lawful, if disagreeable, actions of a handful of people. Second, it claims to have decided after considering the many "nuances" of the debate, but in the end completely ignores the primary issue: open carry of long guns. In so doing, the approach impacts the far more prevalent, and entirely unobtrusive, practice of concealed carry.

Your policy implies that all firearms owners represent the type of people you don't want in your stores:

Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

Statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that concealed-carry gun owners are, by an order of magnitude or more, more lawful than the public at-large. Concealed-carry gun owners are exactly the people any business should want to patronize its stores - not because they'll help protect your stores (unlike anti-gun activists would have you believe, the vast majority of gun owners do not have a hero complex; we simply wish to exercise our rights and maintain the ability to defend ourselves), but because they are much less likely to commit crime or to cause problems in your stores.

And that point brings me to my primary issue with your policy: it unfairly lumps concealed-carry gun owners into a problem not of our making. Even though you preface the request with a mention of the concern regarding open carry, the policy, and the request as-stated, fails to differentiate between open and concealed carry:

As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit “open carry” should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.

Agree or disagree with the tactics of open-carry advocates (I make no argument here, as it is not the point of this letter), those tactics forced your hand (in no small part thanks to well-funded and well-organized anti-gun advocates who themselves caused every bit as much disruption in your stores) into crafting a response. You could have - understandably - created a policy that addresses the specific concern that prompted you to act, and issued a "respectful request" that guests not open carry long guns (or open cary any firearmms). Such a policy would have continued to remain silent regarding concealed carry. The consideration of open versus concealed carry can scarcely be considered a nuance; nevertheless, even allowing for the benefit of the doubt, it is clear that your policy does not reflect such consideration, despite claiming to do so:

We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved.

If you had intended the policy to address only the matter of open carry, this statement:

But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.

...would have read differently; for example:

But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not openly carry firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.

With all due respect, your policy completely fails to respect the rights of the single-largest group impacted by the policy: concealed-carry gun owners. Concealed-carry gun owners cause no disruptions in your stores due to the concealed carry of their firearms. As we are wont to say: concealed is concealed. Neither Target employees nor its customers knows that a concealed-carry gun owner is carrying a firearm. That, after all, is the point of carrying concealed. And yet, your policy "respectfully requests" that we, too, forfeit our rights in order to continue to patronize your stores.

And perhaps most importantly, your policy is counter-productive:

In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.

This policy implies that a gun-free zone "create[s] an atmosphere that is safe...for our guests and team members." In reality, every mass shooting in the past 50 years (except for the Gabby Giffords shooting, which would more correctly be identified as an assassination attempt and not a mass shooting) has taken place in gun-free zones. The only people for whom a gun-free zone is more inviting are the criminals who see them for what they are: a target-rich environment of defenseless victims.

You see, criminals don't care for your "respectful request" any more than they care for the law. Statistics demonstrate that where concealed carry is encouraged, violent criminals leave for areas with more-suitable victims. If you want to create a safer atmosphere for your employees and guests, you would publicly welcome the practice of concealed carry.

That this new policy continues, as always, to follow local laws in regard to carry within your stores - relying instead on a mere, and legally unenforceable, "request" - results in the incredible irony that the policy relies on the overwhelming law-abiding and conciliatory nature of gun owners (and especially concealed-carry gun owners) in order to be effective. But just because we are lawful, respectful gun owners does not mean that we will give up our second-amendment rights in order to kowtow to hoplophobic rhetoric funded by a power-hungry narcissist who wishes to impose on Americans not only his view on gun rights, but also his views on how much salt Americans should add to their food and the size of cups Americans should use to consume soft drinks.

When Starbucks implemented a similar policy last year, my response was that I would respect the request, but in so doing I would no longer patronize their stores. After much reflection, and discussion with other gun-rights advocates over the course of months since Starbucks implemented that policy, my views have changed. While I empathize with the efforts of open-carry advocates, I recognize the inherent risk in their tactics, and that, largely driven by well-funded, well-organized anti-gun advocacy groups, the tactics of open-carry advocates often force corporations to take an explicit stance, where a Laissez Faire approach formerly sufficed. But just because a corporation chooses to implement a legally impotent policy in order to placate hoplophobic, anti-freedom activists does not mean that I must comply.

Unless a situation presents itself in which I need it, neither your employees nor other patrons will know that I am carrying a firearm. I will not intentionally create a disturbance; I will not threaten to boycott your stores. Instead, I will do what both open-carry advocates and anti-gun advocates should have done: I will attempt to engage in dialogue - the very dialogue this letter represents. As for patronizing your stores: should any of your stores post legally enforceable signage prohibiting firearms, I will follow the law, and not carry in such a store - which means that I will not patronize such stores. But for any stores that do not post legally enforceable signage, I will continue to carry concealed wherever I am lawfully allowed to do so.