The signs barring the carrying of concealed weapons inside Schnucks quietly came down earlier this month — more than six years after they first went up in the grocery chain's Missouri stores following the passage of a state law allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons.
Lori Willis, a Schnucks spokeswoman, said the company's policy change came about during a routine review of its policies.
Schnucks has not barred weapons in four other states — Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, and Tennessee — where the company has stores and where there are concealed-carry laws on the books. And there haven't been any problems in those states, she said.
"As the discussion continued, we decided to make the change in policy based on the idea that any customer who has a valid license to carry a concealed weapon should be allowed to do so," Willis said. "It really seemed to us as if it were a nonissue."
The signs were removed without fanfare on June 1.
In 2003, the Missouri Legislature passed a law allowing residents with permits to carry concealed weapons, but court challenges delayed implementation until the following year. Under the law, private businesses were allowed to ban firearms on their premises. The law was greeted with a mixed response from retailers.
Some, like Schnucks, decided to prohibit firearms in their stores. Several shopping centers also did the same, including Chesterfield Mall, West County Center, Mid Rivers Mall and South County Center.
Costco bans firearms in all of its stores regardless of whether a state has a concealed-weapons law. A spokeswoman for Shop 'n Save declined to comment on its policy. However, employees at two local Shop 'n Save stores said concealed weapons are not permitted. Others, such as Dierbergs, never put signs up.
"We decided the Legislature had given our customers the right to carry, and we were going to honor that," said Steve Radcliff, Dierbergs' director of risk management.
He added that it's been awhile since the company has received feedback — either positive or negative — about its decision.
Target allows concealed weapons in its stores in states where this is allowed. A Walmart store did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment. Illinois does not allow residents to carry concealed weapons.
Greg Jeffery, an active member of gun rights groups such as Gateway Civil Liberties Alliance and who lobbied to get the concealed-carry law passed, welcomed the news of Schnucks' reversal. "That's good," he said. "It's about time." Many businesses put up signs barring firearms soon after the law passed, he said. "It was new to Missouri, and they weren't sure what would happen," he said. "But we've been living under it for seven years now, and we've proven that people with permits act responsibly and that the signs are not needed."
Jeffery said his group did contact Schnucks several times in the first year after it put up the signs barring weapons in the hope it would reconsider its policy. But Schnucks did not budge. So the chain was added to the boycott list kept on MissouriCarry.com. Jeffery said he was not aware of any recent pressure gun rights advocates have put on the grocery chain to change the policy.
When the law was first passed, Schnucks felt putting up the signs was the "right thing to do," in order to make sure its stores were safe and secure, Willis said.
But upon review, she said the company realized the signs were no longer needed. She added that Schnucks continues to ban employees from carrying concealed weapons.
The policy change is also noteworthy in that Schnucks openly opposed Proposition B, a referendum narrowly rejected by voters in 1999 that would have allowed residents to carry concealed weapons. But in 2003, when the Legislature considered the concealed-carry measure, Schnucks neither opposed nor supported the measure, Willis said.
"Our company leaders and management are continuously evaluating company policy all the time in an effort to better serve our customers," she said. "The fact that the company can be flexible is a good indication of why we have been in business for 71 years."