The owner of Florida’s controversial anti-Muslim gun store shut his doors on Tuesday to prevent a U.S. military veteran from going inside.
California resident Chris Martin signed up for Tuesday night’s gun safety course at Florida Gun Supply, but the store’s owner abruptly closed before he could arrive. That’s because the owner learned that, in addition to be a war veteran, Martin is also Muslim.
Andy Hallinan, Florida Gun Supply’s owner, made national headlines last week after declaring his establishment a “Muslim-free zone” in a viral Facebook video. In a recent interview with the Daily Dot, Hallinan said he believes Muslims who don’t commit murder in the name of their religion aren’t true Muslims—an ideology shared, ironically, by many Islamic extremists.
“I feel that I have some privilege to enjoy those rights that I fought for and sacrificed for.”
Martin, a former hospital corpsman who treated U.S. Marines deployed during Operation Desert Storm aboard a U.S. Navy ship, says he doesn’t own a gun and doesn’t want one. “This is all just about the principal of the thing,” he says. “I feel that I have some privilege to enjoy those rights that I fought for and sacrificed for.”
Martin was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1998 after eight years of service. “If [Hallinan] has a thing about Muslims, or he hates Muslims, that doesn’t bother me at all,” Martin said. “Part of my First Amendment right is freedom of religion. No one can take that away. Religion is part of the heart and part of the mind.”
Martin says he’s spoken to multiple officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to inquire about the legality of Hallinan’s store policy. The interactions left him feeling like “no one is concerned about doing anything about this,” he said. During a pre-interview on Monday, Martin told the Daily Dot that he had no intention to start a confrontation with Hallinan.
“If I’m told to leave, I’ll leave,” Martin had said.
After arriving in Florida, Martin says he was confronted by law enforcement at his hotel. “They didn’t knock or anything,” he said. “As soon as I opened the door, they were standing there, one ATF agent and a local sheriff.”
Martin claims that an ATF official told him by phone that the agency had advised Hallinan to close his business—a version of events the ATF adamantly denied on Tuesday.
“It seemed like they were purposely trying to scare my wife and children.”
“It’s the store owner’s discretion whether he closes,” Kevin Richardson, spokesperson for the ATF’s northwestern Florida office, told the Daily Dot. “If there’s not a criminal investigation or an an administrative investigation [that calls for a business to be shut down] we cannot dictate that, and we will not dictate that.”
An employee at Florida Gun Supply said Hallinan is not currently answering any questions.
Martin also claimed a Florida ATF official told him by phone that the agency had been watching him since he arrived. “I think they were following me wherever I went; that’s the impression I got,” he said. Richardson says Martin was “absolutely not” under surveillance, but that local police officials had been informed of his presence.
While the Florida ATF agents acted professionally, Martin says, he was disturbed when his wife informed him that agents with the ATF and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), along with local law enforcement officials, had showed up at his house in California. “They know that I’m in Florida, so why did they need to go to my house?” he asked.
Martin said he told one agent, who spoke to him on his wife’s cellphone, to leave his house and not return. “It seemed like they were purposely trying to scare my wife and children,” he said. Martin has four daughters and a 2-year-old son.
Neither the FBI nor the ATF in California returned a request for comment about why the agents were allegedly dispatched to Martin’s home.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Florida chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil-liberties organization, announced it was filing a lawsuit against Hallinan for “violating Federal law.”
We are seeking an injunction against Florida Gun Supply to stop it from instituting policies that segregate people on the basis of religion.
— CAIR Florida | Council American-Islamic Relations (@CAIRFlorida) July 29, 2015
“American Muslims have a right to browse and purchase guns, take classes on gun safety and shoot guns at a range without having to be profiled and discriminated,” Hassan Shibly, CAIR Florida’s chief executive director, said in a statement. “Such discrimination is not only illegal, it is bad for our country and makes us less safe and less free.”
Thania Diaz Clevenger, CAIR Florida’s civil-rights director, added: “We want to make the law crystal-clear to any businesses elsewhere contemplating the implementation of such policies that religious discrimination is still illegal in the United States of America and that American Muslims are just as much entitled to their rights as every other American is.”
Photo by Mumtaz Martin/Facebook (Used with permission)