I don't go into my bank much anymore. With the advent of online banking and ATM machines, I find that I can take care of most of my banking needs without ever setting foot inside the Chase Bank building at Marion and Lake streets. The last time I had reason to enter the actual building, I was surprised to discover that they allow the public to carry concealed guns into the bank.
No, they don't have a sign that says, "Concealed Carry is Welcome Here." They don't have any sign at all. Because they do not have a sign prohibiting the carrying of concealed guns they — by default — allow such weapons to be carried into their bank.
As I surveyed the quiet, composed, calm interior of the bank, I wondered what would happen if an armed robbery occurred while a customer, who was carrying a concealed gun, were present.
I'm sure the bank employees have all received specific instructions as to what to do. But what would the armed customer do? The likelihood is that the armed civilian would draw his or her weapon and the resulting exchange of gunfire would pose a danger to customers and employees, far greater than the risk from robber alone. Visions of "Gun Fight at the OK Corral" spring to mind. How about my safety in the middle of the crossfire?
When I asked the employees why the "No Concealed Carry" sign was not displayed, I was told this was a decision made at a corporate level. I contacted the District Manager – 1st Vice President for Consumer Banking at JP Morgan Chase, who confirmed that it was corporate policy to not display the signs at their branch locations "in an effort to stay consistent as a company." While he did not specifically address my concerns about an armed customer, he did assure me that they have well-thought-out plans to deal with any type of robbery "at their branches." The problem remains that those "well-thought-out plans" are not known to the armed customer who may well decide to implement his own plan and exchange gunfire with the robber.
All of this was in my mind when I heard about the recent shooting in a Joliet Food Market. According to reports, two masked men entered the store and one showed a handgun and shots were exchanged. Both men were killed.
This past November, the US Bank branch in the 100 block of North Oak Park Avenue was robbed. The offender displayed a handgun, demanded money and then fled with the cash. In February of 2012 a man robbed the Charter One Bank in Oak Park. According to reports, he displayed a handgun and ordered everyone down on the ground, jumped over the counter, removed money from a cash drawer and fled. No one was injured in either incident.
Large corporations, such as JP Morgan Chase, should allow their branches a certain degree of latitude in this area. Each of their local branches should reflect the values of the local community it serves. They may well have branches in Texas where they allow customers to carry guns because that reflects the local culture. Let the local branch manager make the decision as to what is appropriate for Oak Park.
I don't go into my bank much anymore.
John Barrett, M.D., an Oak Park resident, is the former director of the Trauma Unit at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.
Answer Book 2019
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