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Schnucks drops policy against customers carrying concealed weapons

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 16, 2010 - Schnucks stores have quietly dropped their policy against allowing customers to carry concealed weapons in their Missouri grocery stores, but not all gun owners who had been boycotting the chain seem ready to change their minds.

Since Missouri's concealed-carry law went into effect in 2004, Schnucks has posted signs at its stores throughout the state notifying customers that they were not allowed to carry weapons.

That policy ended on June 1, though the chain made no public announcement, preferring to let the word spread on its own. Spokeswoman Lori Willis said Wednesday that no particular event led to the change, though she noted that concealed weapons have not been a problem in any of the other states where Schnucks operates.

"This is based on the idea that those customers who have a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon should be allowed to do so," Willis said. "Many people by nature of the job they do are licensed to carry concealed weapons, and we recognize that is a privilege they are given by virtue of carrying a permit and making sure it is up to date and valid.

"As time went by and discussions continued, we realized that the signs were not necessary and that caused us to rethink our position. Our main focus is always going to be to create and preserve a safe working environment for our teammates and a safe shopping environment for our customers."

Schnucks has been one of many businesses on a boycott list maintained by a group known as Missouricarry.com, which characterizes itself online as "a number of Missouri gun owners who over the years had been working with Legislative contacts (and) sought to bring more positive and factual information to the Missouri public concerning gun owners."

A spokeswoman for Shop 'n Save markets declined to discuss the Schnucks decision or to say what that company's policy on concealed weapons is. Dierberg's spokesperson Steve Radcliff said, "We never have had that policy. We just decided to go along with what the Legislature decided." He would not comment on the change of policy by Schnucks. Neither company is on the Missouricarry.com boycott list,  said Zac Bauer, a spokesman and founder of the group.

"Schnucks was one of the big ones in St. Louis," Bauer said of the chain's past refusal to allow weapons. "They were pretty adamant about not reversing that policy for the longest time. If they have gone ahead and reversed that, it's a good thing.

"We would welcome that. It's outstanding. It's the smart thing to do. Having licensed people with FBI checks inside your store makes you safer that way."

One point that has lodged in the memory of proponents of concealed weapons is the $25,000 that Schnucks donated to help defeat a statewide proposition on the issue in 1999. After that narrow loss, the Missouri Legislature approved the issue on its own four years later, and it took effect in 2004.

No statistics are available on how many stores have signs up banning the weapons, or how many started out with such a stance and have changed their mind. The boycott list maintained by Bauer's group, which claims more than 5,300 members, includes more than 200 establishments.

Willis said the boycott played no role in the change in policy by Schnucks. She expects that Schnucks will now hear from people who are unhappy that the signs against weapons have come down.

"There are going to be customers who have strong opinions, either way," she said. "This is definitely an issue where people are going to be split, on one side or the other. I'm sure there are those customers who will believe very strongly we have made a misstep in some way, but I can assure those people their best interests are at the heart of this decision."

Based on some comments on Missouricarry.com website, reacting to news of the new policy, the change may not necessarily alter the buying habits of those who have boycotted Schnucks.

"They would have to be the very last grocery store in the world and I would have to be extremely hungry, before they will get one red cent from me!" said one.

Said another:

"Once and for all, when you shop at Schnucks, you are pointing a gun at your own head. The Schnucks family uses some of their profits to feed the clown politicians and causes that want to take your rights away."

But another poster seemed willing to bury the past, saying:

"To be honest, I think we should praise them for making a good decision, and hold them as an example for others to follow. Emotionally it feels good to hold them beyond redemption, but politically, we cannot use the carrot and stick boycott approach if we refuse to provide the carrot when the policy is changed."

Willis made clear that though the new policy will allow customers to carry concealed weapons, the same will not be true of Schnucks employees, who still will be banned from bringing guns to the workplace.

"They for all practical purposes live in our stores," she said. "They are here on an ongoing basis. Having our teammates carry concealed weapons while they are working would not do anything to enhance the safety and security of our stores, and that is our primary focus. It is very difficult to do a job of this nature if you've got a concealed weapon."

Willis also explained why the company did not make a formal announcement of its decision, instead letting the word spread on its own.

"It's just one of many policy changes we go through in the course of operating in seven states," she said. "We don't typically discuss loss prevention policies, and this was handled just like any loss prevention policy would be handled. Our store teams are doing the communication for us on a one-on-one basis with customers." 

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