I’m not going to join in the Gun Rights Examiner boycott of Marriott, because I think Marriott’s interpretation of North Carolina law is plausible, and I think the Examiners are missing the important issues. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on North Carolina law, and hold out the possibility that there might be case law that validates the Examiners’ position. But people need to understand case law before jumping to conclusions, and calling for boycotts, because it’s not individuals or corporation who determine the law, it’s judges. It is not my purpose here to assert that the Examiners are definitely wrong, but to take folks through the process of understanding how law works. I will leave it to the readers to comment as to who’s right or wrong.
The Examiners are taking one interpretation of North Carolina law, Marriott is taking another. I am not a lawyer, but I know something about Firearms Law, and if I were advising a friend on this matter I would say a Hotel with a license to serve alcohol is a prohibited place under North Carolina law. That’s not the only interpretation, but it’s the safe interpretation. Why it’s safe has to do with how law is made. First, let’s begin with the statute:
§ 14‑269.3. Carrying weapons into assemblies and establishments where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed.
(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to carry any gun, rifle, or pistol into any assembly where a fee has been charged for admission thereto, or into any establishment in which alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
(b) This section shall not apply to the following:
(1) A person exempted from the provisions of G.S. 14‑269;
(2) The owner or lessee of the premises or business establishment;
(3) A person participating in the event, if he is carrying a gun, rifle, or pistol with the permission of the owner, lessee, or person or organization sponsoring the event; and
What does “sold and consumed” mean? What areas does that encompass? You can say that’s common sense, but common sense won’t save you from a prosecutor and a judge who hate defensive carry looking to make an example and set some anti-gun case law.
I’ve tried to look for what case law there exists on the meaning of this, but I’ve been unable to find any. There have been prosecutions under § 14‑269.3, but none of them involve anything ambiguous. The fact of the matter is that you can purchase alcohol at the hotel bar, and probably from room service, and consume it anywhere in the hotel. If I were advising a friend on this, I’d be very uncomfortable telling him that the only place off limits from carry is the bar area. The law says “sold and consumed” without specifying a scope for that. Mr. Valone relayed a story about asking the hotel desk whether he could buy a drink from them. It’s a novel argument. Maybe it would hold up in court. But would you be comfortable making that argument in court before a judge and jury? Because that’s the only way you can settle things like scope and meaning.
Marriott may not have been entirely correct in how they are framing the issue, because I doubt their PR flack is familiar with firearms law. And the Examiners are quite correct that North Carolina law does not require posting on the premises, but Marriott’s assertion that it is unlawful to carry anywhere in their hotel is not an unreasonable interpretation of North Carolina law. If they don’t wish to have their customers arrested and prosecuted, then posting the legal requirement is not an unreasonable action on their part. If the Examiners can show me some case law that shows that the scope of the prohibition is as narrow as what they say, then I’ll relent. But until then I’m going to suggest that a boycott is premature, and their energies would be best sent in the direction of Raleigh, where pressure could be put on the people who actually have the power to change this bad law.
UPDATE: I should probably also address the issues created by § 14‑415.11. I do not believe anyone who was carrying a firearm in the building, unaware that they had posted signs, is going to be liable for a crime. The statute itself requires “conspicuous notice” and when conventioneers entered the hotel, no notice was present. Their adding notice after folks were already in the building doesn’t amount to notice per this law. Generally speaking, you need to be aware you’re committing a crime in order to be charged under it (with some exceptions). You’re on much much firmer ground here than you would be if charged under § 14‑269.3. If GRNC had wanted to, could it have bought alcohol from the Hotel for their GRNC event and had it delivered to that room? Drank it there? I’ll bet the answer is yes.
UPDATE: Howard Nemerov notes that his local Marriott hotels seem to follow state law. The question is what corporate policy is. If they banned concealed carry, I would jump on board with not doing business with them, but following local law is reasonable, and after doing a bit more research on North Carolina’s ABC statutes, it’s illegal to carry in a hotel in North Carolina that has a liquor license for on-premises consumption, which is most halfway decent hotels. Interestingly, if it was a hotel with an attached restaurant, you’d probably be fine, because you can’t legally take alcohol out of the restaurant and drink it (except at home or in your hotel room). But if the hotel has a bar, you can’t really carry.
UPDATE: They may be required to post, if you look at this section of North Carolina’s liquor laws.
It shall be unlawful for a permittee or his agent or employee to knowingly allow any of the following kinds of conduct to occur on his licensed premises: […]
(3) Any violation of the controlled substances, gambling, or prostitution statutes, or any other unlawful acts.
This is not an explicit demand to post signage about concealed weapons being prohibited, but I could see a lawyer believing that posting was the safe route. If they allow unlawful activity to occur in their hotel, they could jeopardize their liquor license. I’m going to admit this is a stretch, but corporate lawyers are notoriously cautious about exposing their employers or clients to risk.
35 Responses to “GRE Boycott of Marriott is Premature”
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