A Muslim rights group is suing a Florida gun-shop owner who declared his store a “Muslim-free zone” earlier this month. The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which works to defend civil liberties, filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Andy Hallinan, owner of Florida Gun Supply in Inverness, who posted an online video earlier this month barring Muslims from shopping at his store.
“I have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of all patriots in my community, and so effective immediately, 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,” Hallinan said in a video posted to his store's Facebook account after a Muslim-American man fatally shot five U.S. servicemen in a rampage in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Hallinan said he would bar Muslims from buying weapons at his store, adding that “Our leaders are telling you that Islam is a peaceful religion full of tolerance and love and hope. Don’t believe their lies.”
The video drew national media attention and has been viewed more than 170,000 times on Facebook.
In its five-page lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, CAIR asserted that Hallinan’s actions were a blatant violation of Muslims’ civil rights and asked the court to grant an injunction against the store, prohibiting the business from instituting policies that discriminate against customers on the basis of religion.
“American Muslims have a right to browse and purchase guns, take classes on gun safety and shoot guns at a range without having to be profiled and discriminated,” Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR Florida, said in a statement. “Such discrimination is not only illegal, it is bad for our country and makes us less safe and less free.”
Katherine Heffner, a civil rights staff attorney at CAIR, added that the store’s discriminatory policy could have a “snowball effect.”
"Andy made it clear. It was a Muslim-free zone, and he was denying services to Muslim Americans and that’s illegal," Heffner told local news station WFTS in Tampa.
But Hallinan told USA Today in a phone interview that the litigation was “bull---.” His attorney, Robert Muise, added that the lawsuit was “bogus.”
"Find in that complaint, one allegation of any Muslim who is discriminated against because of his religious beliefs," Muise said. "You can't find any because the facts do not exist."