Distraction Free Shopping at Target ?

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Davis-TargetBy Tia Will

In response to recent news stories covering examples of Target’s policy of permitting open carry of automatic weapons and ammunition within their stores in Texas, I decided to do a little local research into the position of our local Target.

I am aware that California law does not permit open carry so I will not be encountering openly armed individuals in the aisles of Target Davis anytime soon.

However, I was interested in the position of the local store with respect to this issue.

On Friday, I spoke with an assistant manager of our local Target who was unaware of the controversy. I asked him if it would be possible for me to arrange for a table in front of the Target with information on gun safety. His response was that he did not believe this possible because Target has a “no solicitation” policy in order to provide a “distraction free shopping experience.”

Now, I realize different people will find different stimuli distracting. However, it is difficult for me to understand how encountering an individual armed with a loaded automatic weapon walking down the aisles of a Target would not be at least as “distracting” as would be a table placed outside displaying material on gun safety which could be approached or not approached by shoppers per their preference.

On any given day, my response to the information table would vary from stop and chat to walk on by without a single glance, depending on my degree of interest in the displayed information and the amount of time I had available.

My response to the heavily armed individual would be one of disbelief and fear. I have no way of knowing what this individual’s motivation is. It could be that this is a happy Target shopper who just forgot to take off his or her weapon on the way to pick up diapers.

But could it not equally well be a disgruntled former employee out to shoot members of management, or someone with a serious mental illness out to shoot as many people as possible prior to killing him or herself?

How about someone who thinks they are practicing gun safety, but who trips and accidentally discharges their weapon?  I would certainly find any of these scenarios “distracting” enough to abandon my purchases and head rapidly to the nearest exit with no intent to ever return.

On another note, I wonder whose basic rights are being protected by these policies.

Our Constitution has incorporated a number of basic rights to which we all are entitled.

Our First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Our Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So it would seem to me that, while the current Target corporate policy is to respect the current understanding of the Second Amendment, it is completely oblivious to the principle of the First Amendment.

Is this kind of inconsistency in protection of our basic individual rights appropriate? Is the toy aisle of a Target a desirable place to be carrying loaded automatic weapons?

Does the unarmed portion of the population perhaps have some “right” to feel safe and secure as they shop for presents, toys and children’s clothing?  Why is a table in front of the store more distracting than a gun on the hip in the store? Why is “undistracted shopping” reserved for gun advocates but not for those wishing to discuss safe gun use?

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About The Author

Tia is a graduate of UCDMC and long time resident of Davis who raised her two now adult children here. She is a local obstetrician gynecologist with special interests in preventive medicine and public health and safety. All articles and posts written by Tia are reflective only of her own opinions and are in no way a reflection of the opinions of her partners or her employer.

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40 thoughts on “Distraction Free Shopping at Target ?”

    1. Tia Will Post author

      BP

      Corporate policy per Target Web Site

      “our no solicitation policy
      Target has a long-standing no solicitation policy at our stores nationwide. To provide a distraction-free shopping environment for our guests, we do not allow solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause being represented.”

  1. Tia Will Post author

    Despite this policy, gun advocates have been allowed to hold pro gun rallies in Target parking lots in Tesxas.
    One participant’s taped comment was that one of their goals was to “normalize” the site of individuals armed with weapons in the community. This certainly sounded like advocacy to me and was part of what prompted me to enquire as to whether the local Target was in support of this leniency of the policy with regard to weapons and whether or not Target would allow some alternate thoughts on the issue to be presented.

    To be fair to the local store manager who was very considerate and helpful, he was not sure of all of the implications and directed me to an individual from Target public relations. I have emailed her and am awaiting her reply.

  2. South of Davis

    Tia:

    Just about everyone likes “distraction free shopping” (and I’m sure you would not want the Target sales team getting in your face trying to tell you about the weeks sales every time you walked in and out of your home)…

    1. Tia Will Post author

      South of Davis

      I have no problem with “distraction free shopping”. I do have a problem with allowing gun advocates to hold rallies on Target property and not allow those with a different point of view from expressing that view.
      No one said anything about “getting in your face”. I consider being within steps of someone’s automatic weapons as depicted in pictures of the aisles in Texas to be way more “in one’s face” than people seated at a table which could be approached or not as desired.

    1. Tia Will Post author

      BP

      “It comes down to State laws anyway, does it really matter what Target’s policies are?”

      I started my article with the comment that I understood that the policy of open carry does not apply in Davis.
      What matters to me very much is equal application of rules to all groups.
      If the corporate Target has a rule that there will be no solicitation or advocacy on its property that is fine as long as they apply that rule equally. What is not fine with me when they decide that it is fine for one group to openly
      advocate on their property, but deny that same right to others.

  3. Ryan Kelly

    Target in Woodland had difficulty with all sorts of groups hawking their ideas in front of their store. Customers had to run a gauntlet of people with pamphlets and wanting to talk, wanting you to sign petitions, etc. Customers complained. The manager would put up signs stating that the store did not endorse any issue and gave people an area that they could not cross, and would ask them to not block the doors, but there was “creepage.” I think the same thing happens at the Davis Target with petition drives. I know this happened when Mike Harrington hired an out of town company to collect signatures and police were called to deal with aggressive signature gatherers blocking the doors. I don’t blame Target at all for trying to put a stop to the circus. I know that they have figured out what their obligations. They have to treat everyone the same and can’t favor one issue or group over another.

    1. Tia Will Post author

      Ryan

      I am in agreement with this clearly fair and balanced approach.
      That does not appear to be in alignment with current corporate policy.

  4. Mark West

    I’m having a hard time understanding the point of this commentary, unless it is simply to try to associate the local Target store with what the author considers ‘bad press’ coming from outside the region. Apparently Tia doesn’t like Target, and doesn’t think the store should be in Davis, so she is attempting to cause harm by writing about something that has absolutely nothing to do with the local store, and nothing in common with the situation in Davis, California, other than the name of the store involved.

    California does not have an open carry law so there is absolutely no reason for the local store to have any sort of policy, or even a reason for management to be concerned beyond that of any other citizen, about patrons openly carrying firearms in their store. Anyone openly carrying a loaded weapon into any store in CA will be breaking the law, and the policy for someone breaking the law is to call the police.

    Tia has the first amendment right to write anything she wants, but this inane commentary is nothing more than an attempt to bash a local business (yes, I know, not locally owned, but a local business all the same and a member of our community) that has done absolutely nothing wrong.

    1. Davis Progressive

      seemed like an interesting topic to me. i’m concerned that distraction-free shopping is a euphemism for censorship. we have already had court cases that permit public access in publicly accessible spots such as shopping centers.

    2. Tia Will Post author

      Mark West

      My point is not to harm Target. I shop at Targets in other locations. While it is true that I do not shop at the local Target for other reasons that I have put on other posts, you are correct that this is not about the stand of the local Target. However, I do think that it is reasonable for any individual to differ with a corporate policy.

      When I went into the local Target I did not know what the policy was. My visit was intended as information gathering. What I found was actually a surprise to me as it had not occurred to me that they would be using a
      “distraction free” and “no solicitation policy”, both completely reasonable from my point of view if applied equally,
      to block the provision of information while at the same time acquiescing to gun rights groups desire to use Target property as a staging ground for their rallies.

      I found this discrepancy interesting enough to write an article. I also found it interesting within the context of the recent Supreme Court decisions broadly interpreting the right to free speech to include epithets shouted at funerals as in the Westboro Baptist Church decision, and the striking down of the buffer zone around abortion clinics. It is the disparate application of these principles that is of interest to me, not a desire to harm Target.

      1. Mark West

        You are comparing what happened in the parking lot of a Target store in Texas with what is happening at the store in Davis. The comparison is frankly nonsensical.

        You might have something to write about if the Davis store allowed one organization to distribute information or solicit donations, while denying access to another. That is not the case, so my criticism stands. You have no reasonable argument for writing this commentary other than an apparent attempt to attack the reputation of a store that you do not like.

        1. Tia Will Post author

          Mark West

          Let me see if I can make this clear.
          My problem is not with the local Target which is only following the corporate rule.
          My problem is with the corporate policy. I was led to believe that individual stores do not make their own policy but follow the corporate rules.
          I early quoted the Target corporate position that states “we do not allow solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause being represented.”
          I would be fine with this policy if it were applied equally. However, corporate seems to think that it is fine to allow gun advocates to freely break this rule by rallying on Target property.
          I also believe that I clearly stated that I had no problem with the limited authority of the local management and am awaiting a reply from their corporate PR.
          I personally will find it interesting to see the corporate rationale for allowing gun rally’s on their property but to not allow presentation of gun safety information.

          1. Mark West

            If that was true Tia, you would have had no reason to involve the Davis store at all. Your justification is simply not believable.

            One question for you though (since I generally don’t waste my time reading news reports about some crazies in Texas) does Target own the parking lot where the offending demonstration occurred? If not, they have no control over what happens there and their corporate policy would not be involved.

  5. Barack Palin

    I guess Tia Will forgot about the $15 minimum wage petition group that picketed outside the front doors of Target a few months ago.

    I agree with Mark West, this article was pointless. It comes across to me as an attempt to create some kind of controversy that isn’t there.

    1. Tia Will Post author

      Why would you “guess” whether or not I forgot about it, or how I would interpret it with regard to this situation ?
      Why not just ask me ?

      My position would be that any group petitioning in public should be respectful, non obstructive, not shout or raise one’s voice above a normal conversational tone, and be willing to listen to positions differing from their own.
      I would expect this in any exercise of one’s free speech rights regardless of the topic.

      So now, you don’t have to guess since you know what I think.

  6. South of Davis

    Tia wrote:

    > In response to recent news stories covering examples of Target’s
    > policy of permitting open carry of automatic weapons and ammunition
    > within their stores in Texas, I decided to do a little local research

    I’m wondering if Tia will hare her “research” that said people had AUTOMATIC weapons in Target (I’m guessing they were they “semi-automatic).

    I don’t get why those on the left want to bash chain stores (I lived in SF when they made it real hard to open them) since with rare exceptions they pay more in taxes than similar “mom & pop” stores.

    I get why people don’t want to go to Starbucks, or Wal-Mart, but don’t get why they care if others want to go there and spend money generating jobs and tax revenue…

    1. Davis Progressive

      “I get why people don’t want to go to Starbucks, or Wal-Mart, but don’t get why they care if others want to go there and spend money generating jobs and tax revenue…”

      maybe because they believe it is not in the best interest of our community or the environment? i get that you don’t agree with that but that’s why…

      1. South of Davis

        DP wrote:

        > maybe because they believe it is not in the best interest of our
        > community or the environment? i get that you don’t agree with
        > that but that’s why…

        I own a small business, I like small business, and I support many small business, but I just want to make sure that people know that for the most part small business pay less in taxes and follow a lot less environmental rules than BIG business.

        P.S. I have worked for both big and small business and EVERY small business I worked for tossed the toxic bulbs in the trash while the BIG business had one of these

        http://www.grainger.com/product/4AVE8?gclid=CjkKEQjwlcSdBRD3wva3-KOAo80BEiQAjNIhiSVI6lvHJA9NyvurlQs93BT9-TCCR180gfYForaboxrw_wcB&cm_mmc=PPC:GooglePLA-_-Lighting-_-Light%20Bulb%20Related%20Products-_-4AVE8&ci_src=17588969&ci_sku=4AVE8&ef_id=Uz1-3QAAAPNmIpBb:20140630182512:s

    2. Tia Will Post author

      “I get why people don’t want to go to Starbucks, or Wal-Mart, but don’t get why they care if others want to go there and spend money generating jobs and tax revenue…”

      I don’t understand that either . That is not what my article is about. I am not sure if you truly do not see my point about different treatment for different groups advocating for different policies and my belief that they should have the same rights, or if you are just ignoring it. Either way, I believe that if policy is applied to one group exercising their first amendment rights, it should apply equally to all.

      As for the type of weapons that have been brought into Targets it is possible that there could have been exclusively semi-automatics, there could have been exclusively automatic weapons, or there could have been combination. I relied on stories covering these events and do not know precisely what types of weapons were actually involved. I believe that the principle of equal application of our freedom of speech holds regardless of the exact make and model of weapon.

      1. South of Davis

        Tia wrote:

        > I relied on stories covering these events and do not know
        > precisely what types of weapons were actually involved.

        I would be interested to see if you have a link to an article talking about AUTOMATIC (aka military) weapons vs. semi-Automatic (that often “look” like military weapons). Everything I read said “semi-automatic”. Even in TX and NV an “automatic”/”military” weapon is really hard to get (and with rare rare exceptions people not in the military or SWAT team can’t just walk around with them).

        As for different treatment of different groups I’m betting that an old lady blasting opera music from her Buick will be told to turn down the radio before a gang member (wearing a “kill the white man” T-Shirt with a Glock in his belt) will be told to turn down the rap music blasting from his Escalade.

        Crazy Texas gun nuts who walk around Target with AR15s are not normal people and I sure would not want to be the one to tell them about the “Target Distraction Free Shopping Policy”.

        1. Tia Will Post author

          South of Davis

          “Crazy Texas gun nuts who walk around Target with AR15s are not normal people and I sure would not want to be the one to tell them about the “Target Distraction Free Shopping Policy”.

          Now there is an interesting comment. Would you not want to be the one to tell them about the “Target Distraction Free Shopping Policy” because you are concerned about what they might do if they became angry with you ? Or do you have some other reason for making that comment.

          If concern about their possible response is the reason, I would see that as an illustration of exactly why it is not a good idea for Target to have a permissive policy towards this kind of behavior. Fear of violent action would seem to me to be an excellent argument for protecting ones customers by keeping them off ones property while armed.

  7. Tia Will Post author

    South of Davis

    I am sorry that I neglected to answer your question about my “research”.
    Since I have to go back to work, please Google Target gun policy and you will find a wealth of pictures and articles on this subject and on the reactions of other groups including the NRA.
    It makes for some interesting ( to me ) reading.

    1. South of Davis

      I read in the WSJ that the NRA:

      “called the carrying of large rifles in public spaces “downright weird” and said the Texas group puts all gun owners’ rights at risk with their actions”

      It looks like this might be one of the few times that Tia agrees with the NRA (that anyone who wants to take a eifle in to Target is “weird”)…

      1. Tia Will Post author

        South of Davis

        I also thought that the NRA and I finally agreed upon something, but alas, it was not to be.
        The following day, the NRA issued an apology stating that their criticism of the open carry advocates had been unwarranted and that they would focus their efforts on protecting the right to open carry.

    1. Tia Will Post author

      Hi Dorte,

      I have now seen and responded to you on that thread. I subsequently wondered if I maybe do not understand you fully.
      One of my two main points in writing this article was to highlight what I see as unequal application of a national corporate policy. I am not sure how your comment relates to the issue of rights and equal protection. To me, all shoppers are subject to the same bag policy. Therefore this would not be an issue of unequal treatment. Nor is there an issue of abridgment of fundamental rights since, in my article what is being discussed are constitutional guarantees, not personal preference or convenience.
      I will be interested to hear your perspective on how these issues relate.

      1. Dorte Jensen

        Hi Tia,

        I responded on that thread (bag ban article, July 1, 1:40 a.m.). I don’t know if you got to see it yet.

        I’m beginning to think that this system is flawed. It works if people respond quickly, but if they take more time then others may not realize that they have made another post. Perhaps I should talk to David Greenwald about it. On Davis Enterprise online, there is a page called “Commentary”, and it prints posts in reverse chronological order. If there was something like that here, then people could check it for new posts.

        1. David Greenwald

          We used to have the 15 latest comments on the side bar, but last week it came down due to a conflict with the app that ran that feature and the main site. We’re hoping this is temporayr.

    1. Tia Will Post author

      BP

      Slow day or fast day, I am always interested in our basic constitutional rights and the equal protection thereof.
      I only just became aware of this issue and that was why the timing of the article. I admit to being remiss since it seems that a number of these actions were occurring about a month ago. I apologize for being remiss and missing the first news cycle.

  8. D.D.

    “… it is difficult for me to understand how encountering an individual armed with a loaded automatic weapon walking down the aisles of a Target would not be at least as “distracting” as would be a table placed outside …”

    Here in Arizona, I have seen an individual in Walmart with a gun sticking out of the pocket of his sweatshirt and a man in our grocery store with a gun in a holster. Both times we left the store immediately and both times we would have spent quite a bit of money. Yeah, distracting. To say the least.

  9. Coffee_Black

    Is there really an issue in Davis that people may start shooting up the Target? And what recourses would there be in the first place should a shooter enter a Target (or any store) and begin shooting? Are we to live in constant fear for a shooter at all times in public places? If so, then there goes the quality of life. This article seems to have little purpose, save to make Target look bad.

    And some of the assumptions being made, even as hyperbole, are ridiculous. Are there really going to be shoppers who are going to start carrying their guns into the toy aisle now? Will all the people who longed to bring in guns to Target finally going to have their chance to do so? Is that really what the author believes?

    Personally, I’m happy that there won’t be yet another table set outside yet another supermarket annoying me when I just want to go in, pick up a few items, and leave. I hate having to either act aloof or listen to some spiel about some topic someone else really wants to talk about. It’s annoying and it’s pervasive in Davis. Every time I walk downtown, I run across at least one person on a corner who stops me to talk about their topic of choice.

  10. Tia Will Post author

    Hi Coffee-Black

    It seems like I perhaps did not make self clear as to intent although I certainly tried to.

    First, I stated that the issue was not with guns in the Target here since California law takes precedence.
    My points were twofold and both pertained to corporate policy, not the local Target

    1) I believe that it is not normal, nor is it not distracting to have people openly carrying weapons in stores where the most frequent shoppers are mothers, often with their accompanying children. And indeed, it would seem that
    corporate Target in Texas where this did apply is in agreement since they have subsequently rescinded this policy and asked that their customers not openly wear their weapons into their stores.

    2) I am, and believe that everyone should be concerned about our first amendment rights as well as those of the second amendment. Here I saw a definite inequality. Corporate Target was allowing one group ( the Open Carry proponents) to exercise both their second amendment, but also their first amendment rights ( in the form of rallies) to be carried out on their property while denying that same right to groups wishing to provide gun safety information.

    I truly think the eventual outcome was great. Target decided that rather than opening their property to all for promotion of their views, they would strictly enforce their no solicitation / distraction free shopping applying the policy equally to all groups. I have no problem with this. I do have a problem with selective enforcement of rights. And I also am happy that there will not be “yet another table….” since I would have been one of the individuals staffing it and my goal is not to annoy but rather to engage with those who actively seek information,
    like those who read and comment on the Vanguard.

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