VANCOUVER, Wash. – One man believes he's within his rights to openly carry a gun in a mall, but almost two months after the Clackamas Town Center Shooting, that belief triggers an immediate gut reaction for many.
But how do Derek Mendiola's rights stand up against a store's right to kick him out?
Mendiola says his weapon does draw glances in public, but he says he means no harm and meant no harm at the Sears in Vancouver Westfield Shopping Center on Wednesday when he stopped in to look at some tools.
He went in wearing his 9 mm Taurus pistol on his shoulder. He says he was surprised how an employee took issue with his gun and started verbally attacking him for having it.
"For somebody to harass me for just following my rights is a pretty big deal. It's just like telling me, I can't breathe air, I can’t live," he said.
He claims he would have been perfectly happy to leave if he'd simply been asked politely to do so.
He said he wears it outside his clothing because "if you have it tucked in, it's considered concealed and then if you don't have a concealed permit that is illegal."
Mall general manager Paige Moreau said she was aware of the incident. She said the mall's code of conduct prohibits firearms in the mall. But she couldn't confirm whether that rule was posted anywhere inside the mall. KATU News did not observe any signs posted Thursday prohibiting firearms and couldn’t find a notice posted on the mall's website.
Washington's open carry law allows gun owners to legally carry their weapons in plain sight. But Moreau said the mall is private property, so it's allowed to make these rules.
Washington gun rights expert and author Dave Workman says she's right. But a simple sign or two would help.
"It is their private property," he said. "But still it wasn't posted off limits to firearms and so he really didn't violate any law by going in there open-carrying a firearm."
Later in the day Mendiola said now that he knows it’s against the mall’s rules to bring a firearm on the premises, he’ll respect that and leave his gun at home.
Still, he says it would help a lot if they'd post a notice somewhere.
He says he’s applied for a concealed weapons permit, but mall rules don't make an exception for concealed weapons permits. So even if someone has one, and is carrying, the mall can legally ask the person to leave and have them arrested for criminal trespass if they refuse.
The law is essentially the same in both Oregon and Washington and businesses in both states have the right to set the rules for how they manage their private property.
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