Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency officer Andrew Ward said in a public Facebook post this weekend that he was kicked out of a local Outback Steakhouse restaurant because he was carrying his service pistol. The restaurant, you see, fancies itself a “gun-free zone,” one of those grand American mythological places where as long as you put up a sign and write up a policy, no one can possibly bring a weapon into your safe space and start shooting people.
According to Ward, the restaurant’s manager approached him and said he would have to leave his gun in his truck – a request with which Ward could not comply. TWRA regulations specify that an officer in uniform must have his service weapon on him at all times, leaving Ward with only two choices: Ignore the manager or take his business elsewhere. Ward refused to place his weapon in the truck, at which time the manager told him he would have to leave.
In the post, Ward insisted that he did not “blame the manager” for the incident as he recognized that they were simply carrying out the official policies of the restaurant. He did, however, express anger at being treated like a criminal ruffian, considering his status as a “uniformed Law Enforcement Officer who is sworn to protect and serve the public.” One wonders, incidentally: If Outback (or any other establishment with these silly “gun-free zone” regulations) had to call the cops for assistance…would they insist the officers leave their weapons in the car before allowing them to come inside? It sounds ridiculous, but then, everything about this is already ridiculous.
But wait, this gets better.
Okay, so after the Facebook post went viral and social media went ballistic over the incident, Outback naturally contacted Ward to apologize and throw their manager under the bus. “We’ve always allowed uniformed law enforcement officers to carry their side arms inside our restaurants,” said a spokesman for the company. “A manager made a mistake and we have discussed this with her. We have contacted the guest personally and apologized.”
But if the manager made a mistake, what caused her to just somehow believe, out of the blue, that she had to force Ward out of the restaurant?
Well, it turns out that “there was another customer that was ‘scared for her life’ who was seated across” from Ward and his wife. “She was afraid because ‘police are shooting people,’” Ward explained in a follow-up post.
According to the restaurant, this customer “went on to demand to be escorted to her vehicle out of fear of being shot.”
So that’s what we’re doing now? Catering to the mentally ill? Indulging ludicrous fears with official management intervention? This is what we’ve come to as a nation?
Then again, you have to ask yourself: Was the customer “mentally ill,” or was she simply a regular consumer of mainstream news, a world in which police officers are bloodthirsty racists who rarely go anywhere without bagging a few unarmed blacks for their trophy wall? Is there, at this point, any meaningful difference?