Three reasons why customers shouldn’t carry guns in stores: accidents, escalation and liability

UPDATE: This letter was sent to Walgreen in June 2, 2016. If any legal or insurance team would like information about who was alerted and how, please contact me at spockosemail @

The official corporate response is below, indicating they have been informed about the risk, but are NOT going to change the corporation’s policy.
It is dated June 7, 2016.

Alex Gourlay
Executive Vice President of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
President of Walgreens

In an interview last year you and Richard Ashworth talked about the differences between the US and the UK. One big difference in the US is the need for policies dealing with guns in stores.

Walgreens has a company-wide policy of no firearms for employees, but it appears you do not have a policy that bans customers carrying guns in your stores in all 50 states.  

The counter-factual claim that more guns makes people safer must seem bizarre to someone coming from the UK.

Sadly, the gun lobby has convinced legislators in some of our states to pass laws allowing people to bring guns everywhere.  Some states have also lowered or eliminated requirements to carry concealed guns. Because of this, people with wildly varying skills, training and temperament can legally carry a concealed weapon into your stores–but only if you allow them.

These two trends led to a deadly end outside your store in Texas.

Customer shot dead trying to stop gunman at Texas Walgreens, police say
   — May 2, 2016 FoxNews

To help prevent future accidents, injuries and deaths I’d like you to consider implementing a consistent United States policy that forbids customers from bringing guns into your retail stores. This would include customers in states that allow open carry and the concealed carrying of guns.

When you allow a few customers to carry concealed guns into your stores you are trusting them with the lives of your employees, all the other customers and their children.

You may not know just how poorly trained and inexperienced some concealed gun carriers are. In 25 states people aren’t even required to show they know how to shoot a gun to get a permit. In eight states, no permit or training is required at all to carry a concealed gun.  

Walgreens wants to be America’s most loved pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty retailer, not the pharmacy where untrained, uncertified people can legally carry concealed guns.

Research shows that by an overwhelming majority Americans feel less safe rather than more safe as more people in their community begin to carry guns.

The American “look good, feel good” customers won’t want to remain in stores to be inspired by Boot’s beauty items when they feel unsafe.

Now is the time to act.

Gun accidents in retail stores are increasing, here is one at yours:

  Police respond to Walgreen’s after man accidentally shoots himself
— CBS News April 7, 2016

Arguments are escalating into shootouts, this one happened at your Texas store:

  Selfie provoked argument that led to fatal Arlington shooting, suspect’s wife says
        — Dallas Morning News May 3, 2016

Your board of directors and investors care about the safety of your employees and customers, they also care about the bottom line. They need to learn that allowing customers to bring guns in stores will cost Walgreens more money than forbidding them.

Your financial, legal, HR and insurance experts can calculate Walgreens’ specific costs, but in general allowing armed customers in stores increases retailers’ liability, which leads to higher insurance rates. In the event of a customer gun accident that injures others, Walgreens will bear greater costs in personal injury and wrongful death cases, especially if you could have banned customers with guns, but did not.

I know changing policies takes time and needs internal departmental support, so below I’ve provided some information that supports a policy based on Walgreens’ history with guns in stores. I also have some recommendations on groups, like the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, that can provide details on gun laws in each state to prepare for the move to a no customer guns policy.
(8/2021 Update. As an additional reference on state gun laws here is a link to a list by Project Gunner.)

In America guns can be a complex issue.  Are customers with guns in stores part of the happy and healthy brand experience you want to create?  Do you listen to the arguments of a few customers who want to bring deadly weapons into your stores or to the recommendations of all US law enforcement agencies, your retail premise security experts, your insurance companies and the wishes of the majority of your customers?”

The choice is yours.


Michal Spocko

P.S. This week West Virginia joined Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi and Vermont as states where people can carry handguns without obtaining a conceal carry permit. How many Walgreens are in those states?

Charles Mishkind, Miller Canfield
Adam Forman, Miller Canfield

Three reasons why customers shouldn’t carry guns in stores: accidents, escalation and liability

Police respond to Walgreens after man accidentally shoots himself – WREG April, 2016

1) More guns in stores means more gun accidents

Gun accidents caused by customers happen regularly and with increasing frequency. (List of recent “Shooting while shopping”  articles)

Walgreens already has store policies designed to reduce your general liability from customers’ accidents. For example, in slip and fall cases you put up caution signs around spills. When a product or drug is recalled, employees are trained to immediately remove them from store shelves (p.12 Walgreens Boots Alliance Code of Conduct and Business Ethics)

If you warn customers of potential dangers, and instruct employees to remove recalled products from your stores, why then would you invite customers to bring a known dangerous product like a gun into your store?

2) Employees with guns in stores have led to escalation of violence 

Forbidding employees to have guns in retail stores is an industry standard, supported by law enforcement nationwide. These policies have a preventive, rather than reactive stance and are designed to protect both employees and customers. Employees with guns in the workplace can lead to escalation of violence, leading to injury and death.

Walgreens follows these standards and has a No Guns and a non-escalation policy for employees. These policies were confirmed and legally upheld in the 2011 Walgreens v. Hoven case.

 Walgreens fires armed worker: Pharmacist Jeremy Hoven talks to H-P about incident, says he did the right thing — H-P May 18, 2011

 Walgreen Pharmacist Not Wrongfully Fired After Using Gun During Robbery, Court Rules
     — Bloomberg June 2, 2014

In the court documents for the case was a statement from Walgreens’ spokesman Jim Cohn:

  “For more than 100 years, and across now more than 7,700 stores, [these policies have] resulted in an exemplary record of safety.”

Your general counsel can provide more background on this case and its relevance to Walgreens. What I want to point out is that the court strongly supported your rights as a business to put restrictions on firearms in your stores. 

 Guard arrested in man’s death: Felon illegally working in Walgreens shot shoplifting suspect
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel April 19, 2005

Your preventive policies also apply to your contract security guards. They are instructed to avoid escalation, confrontation and apprehension.  They are instructed to observe and report, not draw their weapon, confront the suspect, chase them down and shoot them.

The importance of this policy was made clear in 2005 when a contract security guard at Walgreens did not follow these instructions when he shot and killed a shoplifter. Walgreens trusted a professional security company to vet their guards and instruct them on your policies. They failed on both counts and were liable.

Since these are the policies for your employees and contract security guards, shouldn’t they also apply to customers? 

3) Each gun liability case can cost millions

When a gun-carrying customer has an accident in a store, an injured third party will sue the gun-carrying customer–and the store. Because your retail stores are required to have liability insurance, but customers with guns are not, you will likely bear the financial costs.

Stores that allowed customers with guns into the store will most likely end up with a higher percentage of the liability, compared with those that don’t.

 Hopefully your own general counsel, outside law firms and premise security experts have already developed liability scenarios in each state comparing your percent liability and costs for continuing to welcome guns vs. banning them. 

In America when people sue, they look for deep pockets–like Walgreens. The insurance companies who have to pay out personal injury claims often advise companies on steps to take to prevent liability claims.

In this article from Zurich Insurance, one of your insurance providers, the head of their commercial real estate division talks about cases where businesses knew of reasonable security steps they could have taken to protect customers, but did not and therefore had to pay more. The cost of signs banning customers with guns is small compared to losing seven-figure court cases.

Insurance Costs

On a consumer level you know that premiums for car insurance vary depending on the car, location and the history of the driver. An expensive car in a bad location with a poor driving history means higher premiums. The same applies to commercial property insurance.

Expanded gun availability in multiple states, combined with weakened laws regulating the carrying of concealed weapons, will have an impact on property insurance premiums.

Only your insurance providers can tell you how much larger the premium prices will be for retail stores that allow customers with guns in stores vs. retailers that ban them.

They should also have insights about and up-to date information on the size of settlements from sealed cases involving gun accidents and incidents across your industry and the country. Publicly available information includes settlements for cases ranging from $250,000 to $15 million.


Recommendations and information resources

Hopefully you will agree with these conclusions and will change your policies.

I understand some national retail chains will choose to continue to allow customers with concealed guns in the stores, downplaying the risk to customers and the cost of accidental death and injury settlements. You will continue to see these kind of headlines.

Boy, 2, Accidentally Shoots and Kills Mom at Walmart — NBC News Dec.31 2014

Other national chains, when pushed to decide, chose safety for all customers and banned customers with guns.

It is possible to prepare a no customer guns plan that addresses the complaints and false choices of people who want to bring guns into your stores.

To help, your team should know about the multiple groups that want to work with you to make this change. 

I have worked with a representative from each of these groups in the past.  If you chose to change your polices, I would be happy to provide you with specific contacts at each.

Organizations that can help with gun policy changes 

!) Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has excellent guides on requirements and laws on the federal and state level regarding guns as it applies to businesses.

2) Moms Demand Action, and Everytown  for Gun Safety have expertise helping retailers implement a policy in specific states. They can also provide support nationally in social media.

3) States United To Prevent Gun Violence, is a grassroots network of 30 state affiliates that educate communities on the dangers of gun violence. They can provide local education and reinforcement of a no customers with guns policies.

Information Resources on Gun Accidents and Incidents 

Sadly the CDC is still not doing research on gun violence. However, some data is being collected about gun accidents and escalation of conflicts to gun violence. Your analysts can see the scope of the problem by region, types of incidents and where it is growing.

1) Gun Violence Archive  The archive enables users to search by type of incident, location and number of injured or killed. They are a not-for-profit corporation formed in 2013 to provide free online public access to accurate information about gun-related violence in the United States.

2) Concealed Carry Killers  this database provides detailed information on hundreds of examples of accidents, injuries, fatal, and non-self defense killings by private citizens with permits to carry concealed handguns.

Retail Industry Gun Polices

The retail industry adopted the “No Employees With Guns” policies in America after it was proven to significantly reduce gun violence, injuries and death. Employees lives were saved by following these recommendations.

As you have seen at your Texas store, you can not predict how a customer with a concealed gun will respond in a crisis. However, the response of an armed robber to resistance is often predictable.

In this 2003 report Teenage Robbers – How And Why They Rob it is determined that robberies escalated to violence because employees resisted or tried to be a hero. 

It is foreseeable that allowing customers with concealed guns in stores will lead to more gun accidents, injuries and deaths.


Richard Ashworth, President Pharmacy and Retail Operations at Walgreen Co.

Elena Kraus, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Walgreen Co.
Michael Freeman, Divisional Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at Walgreens

Greg Kunstman, Vice President, Commercial Legal Business Partners and Services at Walgreens
Howard Rosenblum, Director and Managing Counsel, Tort Litigation at Walgreens
Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. at Walgreens
Alan Nielsen, SVP, CFO at Walgreens
Skip Bourdo, Corporate Operations Vice President, Eastern Operations (Interim) at Walgreens
Kristie Provost, Divisional Vice President, Pharmacy and Retail Operations Compliance at Walgreens Boots Alliance
Charles W. Bernard, Operations VP at Walgreens
Nimesh Jhaveri, Divisional Vice President at Walgreens
Tim Gorman, Divisional Vice President at Walgreens
Jonathon Burris, LPC Regional Director, Asset Protection Solutions at Walgreens Boots Alliance
Jaime Saenz, Asset Protection Manager/Market Retail Security Expert at Walgreens, LPC, CPHT
Michael Polzin, Divisional Vice President — Corporate Communications at Walgreens
Chuck Greener, VP Communications and Community Affairs at Walgreens
Jim Cohn, Director, External Communications, Walgreens
Zurich Insurance NA
Laura J. Lazarczyk, Senior Vice President & Associate General Counsel
Patrick Healey, Senior Vice President and Regional Executive at Zurich North America
Mark Puccio, VP Workers Compensation and Accident & Health Claims

Carol B. Laufer, Senior Vice President Excess Casualty Zurich GCINA

Response is below


Hi Michael,

Thank you for reaching out to us on this issue. Alex Gourlay has asked me to respond on the company’s behalf. While we certainly understand your concern, we believe our current policy of following state and local laws regarding carrying guns is the best approach for a national retailer like us. Again, we appreciate your time addressing this issue with us.

Michael Polzin

Walgreens Corporate Communications