In recent weeks, we’ve been keeping tabs on a story coming out of Iverness, Florida, where the owner of a firearm store, Andrew Hallinan, announced in a Facebook video that he’d be banning Muslims from his shop and shooting range. Hallinan and his company were thrust into the national spotlight as news media and civil rights organizations learned of the video’s Islamophobic content. Since then, Hallinan has appeared in national media to explain himself, has canceled plans with Muslims leaders who reached out to him, and has hired a lawyer to face a lawsuit against him claiming discrimination.
Here, we summarize the developments of this story, updating it with new information as it becomes available.
July 18: In Wake of Chattanooga Shooting, Owner Declares Gun Store “Muslim-Free Zone”
In the days after the shooting of five servicemen in Chattanooga, Hallinan posted a lengthy video to his company’s Facebook page.
In the clip, owner Andy Hallinan is seated in front of a Confederate flag, warning his “fellow Patriots” that “we are in battle.” He says that the response of his company, Florida Gun Supply (FGS), to “the latest terror attack” will be “drastic.” He encourages “Patriots” to “get armed, get trained, and carry daily” by taking advantage of FGS’s classes and shooting range that are now free and open to the public. That is, free and open to all non-Muslims.
“Effective immediately,” he says, “I’m declaring Florida Gun Supply as a Muslim-free zone. I will not arm and train those who wish to do harm to my fellow Patriots.”
The video spread on Facebook, receiving thousands of views and shares on Facebook. Many viewers were supportive of FGS’s new policy, with one writing, “Thank you for being a true American.”
(Read a more lengthy description of the video’s content here.)
July 20: Muslim Leaders Reach Out to Meet and Dialogue
Local and national news outlets contacted Hallinan for further comments on the video and his store’s new stated policy. He even was invited on CNN to explain himself. The Florida chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reached out, too, eager to engage Hallinan and help him to better understand Islam.Hallinan and the head of the chapter, Hassan Shibly, agreed that the Muslim leader would attend one of the shop’s free classes, after which the two would sit down and discuss Islam and the Qur’an. They also planned to have an event with the wider community so that local folks could learn more about Islam.
Hallinan was skeptical that CAIR would change his view that “Islam is a violent, hateful theocracy that is designed to take over the world and kill as many non-believers as they can,” but he said he was open to having the discussion.
CAIR also asked the Department of Justice to investigate the gun store’s policy to determine whether or not it was constitutional.
July 23: Owner Cancels Planned Meeting, Claiming Muslim Group Connected to Terror
Over the next few days, hundreds of emails poured into Florida Gun Supply. They were from concerned citizens who didn’t want Hallinan associating with and organization “very connected” to terrorism. “I cannot in good faith meet with them, and certainly cannot train with them,” Hallinan said, in a second Facebook video, explaining that the United Arab Emirates designation of CAIR as a terror group was “reason enough” for him “not to invite them down to Florida Gun Supply.” The U.S. government has rejected the Emirate’s designation.
“So I don’t want you to act violently, or rudely, or condescendingly to any Muslim for any reason,” he said in the video’s conclusion. “But do get educated, trained, and armed.”
Florida Gun Supply ‘likes’ Jihad Watch on Facebook. That’s a blog penned by Robert Spencer, the co-leader with Pamela Geller of a group the Southern Poverty Law Center named a hate group. Spencer is one of the leading voices claiming that CAIR has ties to terrorist organizations.
July 23: Gun Shop Owner Hires Lawyer With History of Anti-Muslim Activism
In addition to canceling the meeting with Shibly, Hallinan also hired a lawyer to represent him should the issue go to court.
Robert Muise, an attorney for the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), has a history of representing movers and shakers who espouse Islamophobic positions. He represented Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer back in 2010 when they put up advertisements in New York City reading “Fatwa on Your Head? Leaving Islam?”
Muise’s colleague at AFLC is David Yerushalmi, the architect of the legislation against “foreign law” which was introduced, and passed, in some state courts and served to drum up fears about “creeping” sharia law.
July 27: CAIR Florida Rep Shibly Creates Video Message for Owner
After Hallinan rescinded his invitation to Shibly to attend the store, the Muslim leader reached out again. He recorded a video message addressed to Hallinan, in which he said, in part:
“Once you get to know practicing Muslims and American Muslim leadership you’ll find that much of what you’ve heard and been misinformed about is completely and utterly false.”
He ended by telling Hallinan and all other viewers that “our doors are always open” for those who are curious to learn and engage in dialogue.
July 28: Muslim Veteran Tests “Muslim-Free” Policy, Finds Store Shuttered
After hearing about Hallinan’s declared “Muslim-free zone,” Chris Martin, a Navy veteran who is also Muslim, traveled to Iverness to see if Hallinan would, in fact, deny service to a Muslim customer. Shortly before he visited, however, the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau (ATF) told him that Hallinan had decided to close the store.
July 29: Muslim Group Files Lawsuit Citing First Amendment
The day after Martin found the shop shuttered, CAIR Florida filed a federal lawsuit against Florida Gun Supply, saying that its new policy discriminates against Muslims.
Citing the federal prohibition against discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation, CAIR Florida is asking for “an injunction against Florida Gun Supply prohibiting it from discriminating against Muslims, [and] restraining Florida Gun Supply from instituting any policies or practices that discriminate or segregate people on the basis of religion.”
More Muslim-Free Zones?
There have also been other cases of “Muslim-free” shops around the country. In 2014, an Arkansas firearm store also declared its property a “Muslim-free zone,” a case the Washington Post summarizes here. Since Hallinan’s video went viral, a gun store in New York and another in Kentucky announced a policy similar to that of the Florida store.
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