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Dave Ross

Could Seattle business' ban on guns lead to costly lawsuits?

gun free decal TW
That sticker (shown here in the window of Oddfellows on Capitol Hill) is like a business owner saying, "No shirt, no shoes, no service." Or it's equivalent to a movie theater proprietor saying no outside food or drinks. (Image courtesy Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn via Twitter) | Zoom
Could Seattle's new gun-free zone decal campaign lead to lawsuits? Well you can sue over anything.

But as to whether such a lawsuit would get anywhere, Professor Hugh Spitzer of the School of Law at the University of Washington said, "It's unlikely that someone would get very far with it."

Spitzer said the protections of the Second Amendment give us the right to bear arms against government action. But if it's a private business asking that someone not bring a firearm on private property, that is a private property right.

It's like a business owner saying, "No shirt, no shoes, no service." Or it's equivalent to a movie theater proprietor saying, "No outside food or drinks."

"Now also, governments are permitted to impose reasonable restrictions," said Spitzer. "For example, when the Washington State Constitution was written in 1889, we have a much stronger right to bear arms than the U.S. Constitution."

"At that time, the legislature had already banned bringing firearms into bars and taverns. You had to check it before you came in and there was a ban on brandishing firearms in public. And there was also a requirement that nobody could have a concealed weapon other than railroad detectives and law enforcement. Everybody else had to wear their Colt 45's on the outside of their holster."

Back in the days when we were first becoming a state, it sounds like things were even more restrictive then they are now. Spitzer said you couldn't use your gun if you carried it into a place where people were "liable to be drunk."

But let's say we're talking about a present-day off-duty police officer. It's impractical for him to have to check his firearm at the door.

Spitzer said that if there was a statute giving certain people the rights to carry arms, at least in public places, he believes anyone could pass a law where private homeowners could then keep people from coming in their house if they were carrying a gun.

I asked if Spitzer knew if there were any other states that would have a rule that says, as a private business owner you must allow people to carry guns into your business?

"It's possible," he said. "You could check Texas."

I did just that. It turns out Texas is pretty restrictive: Private property owners are allowed to prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns on their property if they provide proper legal notice of trespassing.

A person may carry a shotgun or rifle, either open or concealed, in a non-threatening or alarming manner in rural areas. However, in most urban areas it may be cited as disorderly conduct.

It is a felony to carry a firearm while on the premises of a business that makes more than 51 percent of its revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.

MyNorthwest.com's Alyssa Kleven contributed to this report.

Dave Ross, KIRO Radio Morning News Anchor
Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.
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