GRAND RAPIDS — Business owners not protected under the state’s new concealed weapons law can add “no handguns” to their “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs if they wish, as the law doesn’t prohibit them from keeping revolvers off their property.
But enforcing that restriction will be a lot tougher than checking for shirts and shoes.
“I think they do,” said William Forsyth, Kent County prosecuting attorney, on the right of an owner to ban handguns from a property. “The question becomes, having once posted a sign, how are they going to check to see if somebody actually has one.”
One method would be to have customers check their pistols just like they do their coats at some businesses, as the law allows owners to create a handgun-check policy.
“They can. But I don’t think that there is anything that can make them do it, though,” said Forsyth of permit holders. “I don’t know how they would follow up. They could say, ‘Do you have a gun? Let me search you.’ But I don’t think they want to go to that extent.”
If a shooting incident does occur in a restaurant, doctor’s office, retail store, factory or any other business, the owner could face civil liability charges even if he or she posted a sign that prohibits handguns on the property.
But attorney Jim Rinck said that unless an owner had prior knowledge that something was going to happen, a key component of a lawsuit, proving that liability would be difficult in Michigan.
“They might get sued and they might lose. If you have a couple of dead people, somebody will try to do something just because the damages are so great and the loss is so heavy,” he said. “But it seems to me that, probably, given the things I’ve read about the state of the law in this area, it’s going to be awfully tough to win — especially given the (Gov. John) Engler courts.”
Rinck suggested that business owners should be aware of any potential problems. If one develops, he said they should deal with it immediately and keep a detailed record, including the dates and times of an incident and the action taken.
So what else can business owners do to protect their employees, their customers and their investments?
“The only thing they can do, frankly, is post the sign. And if they see someone with a gun, they can ask the person to leave. If they refuse to leave, they can call the police and ask them to be arrested for trespassing,” said Forsyth.
“If they’re on your property and you’ve asked them to leave, and the reason you’ve asked them to leave is you’ve posted the place not to have a gun and they have one, and they don’t leave, technically at that point they’re trespassing.”