Arby's franchisee U.S. Beef Corp. is one of hundreds of businesses in the state trying to figure out what to do when Oklahoma's open carry firearm law takes effect Nov. 1.
Although U.S. Beef Corp. has the right to restrict weapons from entering its properties, the Tulsa-based company inadvertently became the target of a passionate Second Amendment controversy when it started posting "No Weapons" signs outside its Arby's restaurants two years ago.
The situation led to protests, and now U.S. Beef Corp. and other businesses face another decision: Should customers be allowed to carry guns openly in their business?
The question must be answered soon. An amendment to the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act was signed in May by Gov. Mary Fallin, and beginning Nov. 1 people who are licensed to carry concealed weapons will be allowed to carry their guns openly.
In interviews with the Tulsa World, business owners and managers say changes to the law are forcing them to consider how openly displayed firearms would affect safety and comfort of employees and customers.
Some are stepping up efforts to keep guns out of businesses, while others -- including banks and convenience stores -- say open carry presents no greater threat than concealed weapons.
A right to restrict U.S. Beef Corp. has the legal right to prohibit patrons and employees from carrying weapons inside its establishments, even if gun carriers hold a concealed carry permit.
But word of the company's no-weapons policy spread to gun-rights websites and was interpreted as an attack on the rights of gun owners, said Kim Thompson, vice president of human resources for U.S. Beef Corp.
"We had protests outside some of our stores, and I received literally hundreds of phone calls and emails complaining about our policy," she said. "They were very passionate."
After a few weeks, the company relented, changed its policy and took down signs. But it still prohibits employees from carrying weapons into the workplace.
"It puts us in a tough position because we can't allow our employees to carry weapons for protection," Thompson said. "It would make customers uncomfortable."
Businesses big and small across Oklahoma are grappling to come up with new policies.
Any property owner has the right to restrict firearms on their property, whether by posting signs or asking gun carriers to leave, according to lawyers and business trade groups. Many area property owners already post signs prohibiting firearms in their buildings.
Downtown building owner Kanbar Properties has signs prohibiting weapons, as do the BOK Center, LifeTime Fitness and Williams Cos. properties.
Many companies and property owners already prohibit guns, yet others never encountered problems with concealed firearms because they were out of sight and out of mind.
Under the new law, those weapons will be much more visible to business owners, patrons and employees.
Even businesses where guns might pose problems are taking varied approaches to the new law.
Unchanged policies Tulsa-based QuikTrip Corp. operates convenience stores in several states that have open carry laws, including Arizona.
"It hasn't created a problem for us in Arizona, and we don't plan on making any changes in Oklahoma," said QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh. "Of course, we aren't going to ask everyone who walks into a store in Oklahoma with a gun to see their permit."
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