Muslim civil-rights advocates are asking the government to investigate a Florida business owner who declared his store a “Muslim free zone.”
“I have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of all patriots in my community, and so effective immediately, I’m declaring Florida Gun Supply as a Muslim-free zone,” Andy Hallinan, proprietor of Florida Gun Supply in Inverness, Florida, said in a Facebook video that features a backdrop of a Confederate flag. “I will not arm and train those who wish to do harm to my fellow patriots.”
Florida Gun Supply’s Facebook page cited the July 16 mass-shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a 24-year-old Muslim, as the reason for implementing it’s new anti-Muslim policy. Four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor were killed in the attack, which targeted military facilities.
U.S. law-enforcement authorities have yet to determine the motive behind the attack. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says Abdulazeez was likely not inspired by Islamic State militants, though they did find evidence that he followed an American member of Al Qaeda online in 2013.
“As a gun dealer, I can deny service to anyone for any reason.”
“We’re in a battle, patriots, but not only with Islamic extremist,” Hallinan says. “We’re also in battle against extreme political correctness that threatens our lives, because if we can’t call evil ‘evil,’ then we can’t really defeat our enemies.”
Hallinan’s video almost immediately caught the eye of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil-rights advocacy organization. In a statement Monday, CAIR said it intends to call on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate possible federal civil rights violations by Hallinan’s business.
“It’s very concerning, especially here in the South where there has been a history of business owners trying to discriminate against who they can offer to their services to,” Hassan Shibly, an executive director at CAIR, told the Daily Dot. “But it’s clear if you look at the guy’s Facebook, he has a very biased, blatantly anti-Muslim perspective. And, obviously, we stand against all forms of discrimination, and that’s why we’re looking at that.”
So far, no one has reported being turned away from Hallinan’s store, according to Shibly, a graduate of University at Buffalo Law School, who works frequently with inter-faith organizations. “I don’t think there’s any Muslims who would want to give that individual business, but obviously, you don’t want to establish a pattern where this kind of discriminatory practice is accepted by society as a whole,” he said.
Hallinan did not immediately respond to our request for comment. Florida Gun Supply’s voicemail directs callers to a form on their website. “As you can imagine,” the message says, “we’re inundated with phone calls, Facebook messages, Twitter messages, all in support of our new Muslim-free zone at Florida Gun Supply.”
CAIR is also asking the DOJ to look in on a second business, the alleged owner of which reportedly indicated he would follow Hallinan’s example. “I am the owner of Granite State Guns & Survival Gear in New Hampshire,” a Facebook user named Randy MacArthur allegedly wrote in a now-deleted post. “I stand beside you 100 percent. We too are a Muslim-free zone!!!”
“Obviously, you don’t want to establish a pattern where this kind of discriminatory practice is accepted by society as a whole.”
Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director, told the Daily Dot that Hallinan had recently contacted him by phone and thanked him for driving traffic to his video.
In his Facebook video, Hallinan insists the Confederate banner behind him represents the “rich heritage of the South.”
“I’m flying this flag today not because I’m racist—because I’m not—and I’m not intolerant of others,” he says.
Asked by a Facebook user what he was doing to protect Americans from “extremists who gun down people in churches,”— a reference to the June 17 killing of nine Charleston, South Carolina, churchgoers—Hallinan responded: “Yeah, I won’t sell guns to racists, either.” He added: “As a gun dealer, I can deny service to anyone for any reason.”
Hallinan further alleged in his video that “racism was on a decline in America until Obama took office.” He goes on to say: “The leaders of our country are telling you that anytime a black man is shot by a white cop, it was because of race—don’t believe their lies.”
Contrary to Hallinan’s claims, a recent study revealed that, between 2010 and 2012, black teens were 21 times more likely than white teens to be shot and killed by police. A separate review of nationwide arrest data between 2011 and 2012 revealed that black people are more likely than others to be arrested in almost every city for almost every type of crime.
Hallinan is not the first U.S. gun store owner to publicly say he will refuse to sell firearms to Muslim customers. Jan Morgan, a conservative personality and owner of Gun Cave Shooting Range in Hot Springs, Arkansas, banned Muslims from her store last fall. After CAIR called on the federal government to investigate, the DOJ said it was “monitoring the matter.”
A CAIR spokesperson told the Daily Dot the organization was aware of at least two people in the U.S. who have been turned away from a gun store for “appearing Muslim.” The two individuals, who were not identified by name, were not actually Muslim, the spokesperson said. No legal action was reportedly taken.
Reached by phone Monday, a spokesperson with Justice Department’s civil-rights division said they were neither aware of Hallinan’s video nor CAIR’s request for an investigation.
Update 12:10pm CT, July 21: In an email to the Daily Dot, a DOJ spokesperson said: “The department will review the request from CAIR when it is received.” The DOJ further noted that under Title II of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §2000a: “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”
Illustration by Max Fleishman