Wal-Mart can ask to see gun licenses


A Texas gun rights advocate displays his customized holster Jan. 1 as he walks to the Texas Capitol for a rally.
A Texas gun rights advocate displays his customized holster Jan. 1 as he walks to the Texas Capitol for a rally. AP

Newly emancipated gun-toters in Texas should not blame Wal-Mart for making sure they are abiding by the law when they come into a store with a pistol on their hip.

Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that Wal-Mart managers in Texas have been ordered to make sure customers who openly bring firearms into their stores have the required state gun license.

There’s a bottom-line business reason, although Wal-Mart might be carrying it to an extreme.

Wal-Mart stores sell beer and wine. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission prohibits unlicensed handguns in establishments that sell those products for off-premises consumption, Bloomberg reported.

A store could lose its liquor license if it “knowingly allows” people to bring an unlicensed firearm inside.

Figures weren’t immediately available on the annual dollar value of Wal-Mart beer and wine sales, but safe to say it’s a lot, and the company doesn’t want any store to lose its license.

The order telling Wal-Mart managers to ask to see handgun licenses came down last month in preparation for the new Texas open-carry law going into effect Jan. 1, Bloomberg reported.

Ashley Bravo de Rueda, 25, of Wichita Falls told Bloomberg she went into a Wal-Mart Sunday night openly carrying a pistol and was almost immediately approached by an employee. It sounds like the encounter was polite.

“She said, ‘Ma’am, you are more than welcome to carry a gun like that, but I’m going to need to see your license,’” Bravo de Rueda told Bloomberg. She said she felt she should not have been stopped.

C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas, voiced similar concern.

“I find it offensive,” he told Bloomberg.

Nothing in the new open-carry law says people who carry their guns have a right to not be offended. Wal-Mart stores are private property, and the company has to decide how to run them.

Many gun rights advocates say they will not patronize businesses that don’t allow them to freely carry their firearms according to the law.

Similarly, some gun-control advocates say they won’t feel safe at stores that allow guns, and they won’t shop at those stores.

That puts pressure on retailers from both sides, and there’s no general rule for guidance.

Wal-Mart could probably argue that it would not “knowingly allow” unlicensed guns if it just didn’t ask, but that’s not the way the big retailer has decided to do things.

Chances are, after a few weeks when the open-carry law is no longer new, people on both sides of the debate will relax a bit.