What started as a refusal to serve “two customers she deemed suspicious” and “to be Muslim based upon their names”, Hot Springs, Arkansas gun range owner Jan Morgan of the Gun Cave Indoor Firing Range has imposed a ban on Muslim customers for safety reasons.
In an interview with Fox News, she said, “We are dealing in lethal firearms. I am not going to let a Nazi shoot in here, or a Ku Klux Klan member in here, either.”
The public reaction has been swift.
Since implementing the ban, Morgan has seen her business quadruple at the gun range – an increase in sales that many customers describe as an effort to support her decision to keep the community safe.
While the ban may be good for business in the short run, it may have catastrophic impact on her business on legal grounds. That’s because those who have been refused service could sue Morgan. It is also possible that the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) could launch an investigation into the policy on civil rights grounds. Neither of these actions has occurred so far in the policy standoff.
According to Fox News, upon learning of the ban “the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to intervene.” In the letter, CAIR said, “Given the recent spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric, including Islamophobic statements by government officials, community leaders and media outlets, death threats, and other bias incidents targeting Muslims, I urge you to investigate this matter soon.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has also asked the DOJ to investigate Morgan’s policies and has made it known that they want to talk to any Muslims who have been turned away from Morgan’s shooting range based on the policy.
Despite the legal threats, Morgan is standing by her decision to ban Muslims – a policy that may not violate civil rights laws if she runs her range as a private club, which would exempt it from certain federal civil rights regulations.
The matter turns on a legal doctrine called “public accommodation” as described in the Civil Right Act of 1964. According to FindLaw.com, a public accommodation can be a “privately-owned” business or facility” that offers certain goods or services to the public — including food, lodging, gasoline, and entertainment” – “for purposes of federal and state anti-discrimination laws.”
The owner of the Gun Cave, Jan Morgan, is also the obvious owner of Jan Morgan Media, which appears to be a business that promotes the owner as a public speaker and media personality.
While Jan has not proved that any Muslims have been turned away from her business, the reaction has served her well in what can only be considered a well-designed publicity stunt.