1 Oct 2014

Kids yes, Muslims no: US shooting range owner sparks outrage

Pro-gun campaigner Jan Morgan declares her Arkansas shooting range a “Muslim-free zone”.

Gun instructor and campaigner Jan Morgan

Ms Morgan, owner of the Gun Cave Indoor Firing Range, announced the ban in a post on her website – which has since been taken offline.

Explaining her decision, she wrote: “Two Muslims walked in to my range last week with Allah Akbar ring tone and message alert tones on their smart phones. They spoke very little English, one did not have proof of US citizenship, yet they wanted to rent and shoot guns.

“Their behaviour was so strange, it was unnerving to my patrons. No one would enter the range to shoot while they were there. Some of my customers left. (Can you blame them?)” she wrote.

“I understand that not all Muslims are terrorists,” she said. “I also believe there are as many Muslims who do not know what is in their Koran as there are Christians who do not know what is in their Bible.

“Since I have no way of discerning which Muslims will or will not kill in the name of their religion and the commands in their Koran… I choose to err on the side of caution for the safety of my patrons”.

Public support

The conservative blogger also stated she had received death threats from Muslims for her views on Islam. She had previously posted verses of the Koran online which she claimed encourage Muslims to be violent.

Following publicity at her stance, Ms Morgan said her Facebook page had received thousands of comments, the majority of them supportive: “Folks, I have over 3,000 messages in my inbox on this page, and over 2,000 in my home page… My phone answering machine is jammed full with messages and so is my cell. Thousands of messages of support and encouragement from virtually every state in the country and lots from Europe and Australia.”

Ms Morgan also cites the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing as a motivating factor in her decision to ban Muslims from her business.

Changing perceptions

In February, the Arab American Institute (AAI) released a poll of US attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims. The poll – the third in a biannual series – showed a continued downwards slide in the number of Americans who felt favourable towards Arabs and Muslims. It found that 42 per cent of respondents felt that American Muslims would be negatively influenced by their religion.

In August the death of American jihadi Douglas McAuthur McCain in Syria raised the profile of home-grown Muslim extremism. The number of US jihadis fighting with Islamic State is small compared to those from other countries – at the time of McCain’s death, the Pentagon said it was aware of a “handful” of Americans fighting in Syria.

However, the prospect of jihadis with US passports returning from the battlefield to carry out attacks on US soil has become a concern for US authorities. In September the Obama administration launched an outreach effort to raise awareness within American Muslim communities about young people joining Islamic State extremists.

The pilot programme, due to take place in several US cities over the coming months, aims to bring law-enforcement officials together with community and religious leaders to discuss radicalization. The White House is also planning a summit later in October on “Countering Violent Extremism.”

Children and guns

In a separate blog prompted by the recent fatal shooting of a gun instructor by a nine-year-old girl at an Arizonan gun range, Jan Morgan backs the right of children to learn to use guns: “I am an avid supporter of exposing young people to shooting sports and firearms under strict supervision and with proper training.”

However, she points out that her range does not allow under-18s to shoot automatic weapons.