It’s a tough choice business owners are facing — post a sign on the front door that says “No Weapons” and be liable if someone is injured, or wonder who's packing a pistol as they make a purchase.
Wisconsin’s new concealed carry law went into effect Tuesday and local business owners are weighing the pros and cons of allowing weapons in their stores.
The law allows armed citizens to hit the streets, parks and businesses, unless there’s a sign posted that bans weapons.
Whether the business is a kid-friendly establishment like , a bar and restaurant like , or a larger chain of coffee houses like , everyone is weighing their options carefully.
"I’m really torn," Calderone Club owner Carmelo Fazzari said. "Half of me says I have kids and family, the other half says if someone does come in here, wouldn’t you want someone here with a pistol on to come to your aid?"
Ann Deuser owns Art Trooper, a kid-friendly arts and crafts studio in Audubon Court. She said she doesn't really foresee people coming into her do-it-yourself art studio armed anyway, so it's not worth the legal liability.
“Being a kid-oriented area, I don’t want anything negative when people walk in,” Deuser said. But on the other hand, she also said that as a small business, there's already many potential liabilities to face. “If putting a sign up makes me more liable … then I’m not putting a sign up.”
Wisconsin is the 49th state to grant permits to residents that will allow them to conceal weapons, including handguns, electric weapons like Tasers, billy clubs, and knives (except switchblades). Felons and those under 21 years of age won’t be eligible for a license.
Where it’s OK to Bear
While most state buildings will allow weapons — excluding courtrooms, police stations, prisons, state-run mental facilities and laboratories — Fox Point and Bayside municipal buildings like both Village Halls and the will be weapons-free zones.
As with any new law, there are many interpretations and opinions that can lead to misinformation. Glendale attorney and School Board President Mark Goldstein has posted a FAQ page to shed some light on the new law.
The state grants immunity to any business that allows weapons if someone is harmed. However, if that business has elected to prohibit concealed weapons, it could be liable for negligence if someone is harmed.
Say someone walks into a business that has posted the "No Weapons" sign and another person comes in armed and shoots that patron. One argument is, in this case, the business could be liable because the unarmed patron was obeying the business' policy — not carrying a weapon — and therefore, could not defend himself.
But Goldstein said it seems hard to prove that an injury could have been averted by access to a weapon.
"It is not reasonable to think that the posting of a sign obligates the business owner to frisk all comers or 'swing into action' to prevent a crime or confront a criminal in the act," he said.
Natalie Kamprath, store manager at the Stone Creek Coffee on the edge of Fox Point, said she's not concerned.
"I'm not really worried about it. I guess I've never felt uncomfortable in here," she said.
So with the new law now opening the door for gun owners, business owners are forced to decide if they want to hold that door open, or take on another potential liability.