A North Carolina restaurant that joined in with other restaurants large and small around the US in asking that customers not bring guns inside was robbed at gunpoint, a seemingly random crime that has further galvanized gun control opponents.
Police in Durham are searching for three men who donned masks and entered The Pit Authentic Barbecue through the building’s back door near closing time on Sunday. Employees were forced to lie on the floor and two were assaulted although not seriously hurt. How much money the robbers got away with was not immediately clear, although all of the employees and customers still dining at the time are unharmed, according to local outlets.
What has turned the incident from a local crime story into one worthy of headlines from outside North Carolina is that the restaurant’s proprietor, Greg Hatem, had previously hung a sign on the door asking that customers follow a “no weapons” and “no concealed firearms” policy.
The position, while not explicitly political, aligns The Pit with major chains like Chipotle, which asked customers not to bring guns into its stores after gun control opponents flaunted military-style assault rifles while ordering a burrito, and Starbucks, which temporarily closed a location in Newtown, Connecticut because of a planned pro-gun demonstration near the site of the Newtown Elementary School shooting.
Chipotle explained its decision in a statement Monday, announcing that “the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers.”
Those announcements, along with there being a growing number of Americans who support tighter firearm regulation, has put conservative lawmakers and right-wing bloggers on the defensive. In posts chronicling the North Carolina restaurant robbery, multiple blogs equated the sign with the National Rifle Association rationale that the more people who are carrying guns, the safer the situation.
“I am very glad that no one was seriously injured. But everyone involved needs to face one important fact: they were not murdered only because the robbers did not decide to kill them,” wrote the NC Gun Blog. “Why? Because the owner of The Pit authentic Barbecue has banned guns in his restaurant…He went out of his way to make custom signs to make sure we gun owners felt unwelcome.”
Another blog, titled Guns N’ Freedom, equated the situation with the same laws that supposedly made the thousands of fatal shootings possible over recent years.
“This should be a clear reminder that criminals don’t obey gun laws and they don’t obey signs on windows that say they can’t bring their guns inside,” the blogger soapboxed. “These signs only stop law abiding citizens from being able to protect themselves and make the establishment a bigger target for crooks. After all, why pick a target where people can shoot back at you?”
Such assumptions have no founding in reality, according to a number of research studies published over the past few years by multiple, unrelated academics. Boston University Professor Michael Siegel, along with two co-authors, revealed the result of a twenty year study which found that firearm ownership does not deter violence.
“We observed a robust correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher firearms homicide rates,” the authors wrote. “Although we could not determine causation, we found that states with higher rates of gun ownership has disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.”