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When Guests Want to Check In With Firearms, What Can Hotels Do?

Category: Lifestyle,Travel

Much of the discussion about hotel gun policies comes from travelers who want to take their guns on the road. On social media and gun-enthusiast blogs, some criticize hotels that ban weapons as “gun-free zones.” “I realize they have a right to do this, just as I have a right to no longer stay here,” a business traveler who signed in as BixTex wrote on the TripAdvisor site of a Holiday Inn Express in Mansfield, Tex.

On the other hand, 70 percent of Americans think guns should be banned outright from schools, bars and sports stadiums, according to the 2015 National Firearms Survey, a national poll designed by Harvard University public health researchers and conducted by the German research firm Growth for Knowledge. More than half of the nearly 4,000 Americans polled said guns should not be allowed in restaurants. (The survey did not ask specifically about hotels.) Several countries, including Canada, Germany and New Zealand, warn travelers to the United States about the easy availability of firearms and the frequency of violence.

Most of the hotel industry personnel contacted for this article were loathe to discuss their gun policies. “It’s a no-win situation for us,” said one representative who requested anonymity for fear of offending potential clients and others in the industry. “Either we’re infringing on rights or we’re compromising guest safety.”

Hotels are also worried about lawsuits. After the October 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay, hundreds of victims joined lawsuits accusing the hotel of lax security. MGM Resorts, which owns the hotel, had banned firearms from all its properties before the shooting, which killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. But the gunman spent days smuggling an arsenal of at least 23 firearms into his hotel room hidden in suitcases. Nevada is a permissive open-carry state, meaning that people there can carry firearms in public even without a license.

MGM Resorts in turn sued more than 1,000 victims and others, claiming that it cannot be held liable for the shooting under a 2002 federal law. The cases are still pending.

The checkerboard of gun policies can seem random and is often independent of local firearms laws, which themselves can vary from state to state and county to county.

The organizers of a 2016 biblical literature conference in Texas, which had recently enacted an open-carry law, advised attendees that three hotels on San Antonio’s Riverwalk — the Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency and Hilton Palacio del Rio — banned firearms. The nearby Marriott Riverwalk and Marriott Rivercenter, on the other hand, allowed guns. But even those policies seem to differ: at the Marriott Riverwalk, a security official said guests have to show a firearms license at the front desk before taking their guns to the room. Right across the street at the Marriott Rivercenter, a security official said simply, “because of the law, you can open carry.”

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