RACINE COUNTY - Several area financial institutions and retail stores will allow concealed weapons, many manufacturers won't, and tavern owners are perplexed.
The advent of concealed carry in Wisconsin this week has employers and businesses deciding whether to prohibit weapons or say nothing about it. Some, including Case-New Holland, are still deliberating.
The concealed carry law will allow people to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns and other weapons in many public and private places. Act 35 also allows property owners and tenants to prohibit those weapons by posting signs at entrances. The law takes effect Tuesday.
Roundy's, the owner of Pick 'n Save grocery stores, will not ban concealed weapons.
"Roundy's does not intend to impose any prohibitions on our shoppers based on this new law," said spokeswoman Vivian King. "We operate under the same practice at our stores in Minnesota, where a similar law has been in place for several years."
Shopko Senior Vice President Peter Vandenhouten declined to say what the Green Bay-based company will do at its Wisconsin stores, which include one at 4801 Washington Ave.
However, he said, Shopko has not banned weapons in other states with concealed carry "and it has not been an issue."
Three area financial institutions will not post no-weapons signs, including Johnson Bank's parent company, Johnson Financial Group. The company did not share its reasons.
Educators Credit Union will not ban weapons, either. "How are you going to enforce it?" President Gene Szymczak said.
Nor will Tri City National Bank. "Just because we don't believe there's any danger to our customers exercising their right and carrying legally,"
CEO Ronald Puetz said. "We're the 49th state to do this."
He also said the penalty for a bank robbery conviction is much more severe if a weapon is displayed.
The Wisconsin Bankers Association explained the law to members but made no recommendation either way, Puetz said.
Many employers already banned weapons and are simply adding signs warning people to leave them outside.
InSinkErator, 4700 21st St., has had a no-weapons policy for many years, said Human Resources Vice President Drew Abram: "We're committed to a safe workplace, and we think that keeping this kind of stuff out of the workplace is part of that solution."
Abram acknowledged employers cannot ban weapons in vehicles on their property. "But we can tell you how we want them stored," and
InSinkErator wants them locked away, out of sight.
The company considered using metal detectors, but so far does not plan to, Abram said - partly because that would require additional labor and costs.
Guns and drinks
Joey LeGath, owner of three Racine taverns, said prohibiting weapons was a "very easy" decision.
"All the (other tavern owners) I've talked to, they're also posting signs," he said.
LeGath owns Joey's on Sixth, 910 Sixth St.; Joey's on Lathrop, 2054 Lathrop Ave.; and Joey's on Taylor, 1863 Taylor Ave.
"I think it's just not a good idea to have a gun in a tavern," he said. "I wouldn't want other customers leaving because they get nervous."
But Racine Tavern League President Lou Larson said confusion abounds in his industry about the law and liability. Property owners or occupants who do not ban carrying concealed weapons are immune from liability from that decision.
"Conversely, if a business prohibits concealed carry, it may be accepting some liability for the actions of customers and employees arising from the use of a concealed weapon," Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin Executive Director Ron Von Haden said.
"A lot of people don't know what to do," Larson said, out of fear of increasing their liability.
Also, the law forbids drinking alcohol while armed, and some tavern owners are posting signs about that.
"Everyone is just scrambling to figure this (law) out," Larson remarked.
Robin Wilson, purveyor of a different type of beverage, said he will not post no-weapons signs at Wilson's Coffee & Tea, 3306 Washington Ave.
"We don't think this (law) is a big deal," he said.
However, he is allowing two local groups to sell a unique no-firearms sign at the shop.
Pioneer Products, 1917 S. Memorial Drive, didn't have a no-weapons policy before. But it does now, said President James Beere.
"Personally, I like the law," he said, partly because criminals are often armed.
But for the company, Beere said, "we just thought it was not a good idea (allowing) weapons at this point. We'll evaluate it as it goes along."