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Florida gun shop a 'Muslim-free zone.' Is that legal?

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A Florida gun store is in the social-media spotlight this week after making a video announcing a new policy banning Muslims from the premises.

The owner of Florida Gun Supply, located in Inverness, Fla., Andy Hallinan begins the video by defending the Confederate battle flag's historical significance and cultural importance, and closes the video by introducing three new changes: concealed carry classes at the shop will be free, the shooting range will be free and open to the public, and the shop will now be a "Muslim-free zone." He says, "I will not arm and train those who wish to harm my fellow patriots."

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The video was created after a gunman attacked two military installations in Chattanooga, Tenn., on July 16, leaving five US military servicemen dead. The shooter has since been identified as Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez. Since the attack, there has been widespread media speculation surrounding his Muslim faith and its possible connection to the crime.

The video has several hundred comments on Facebook. Many are expressions of support: "I commend you on standing up for our rights & freedom! We need more like you!" said one. But another said, "Not when you violate the US Constitution fella."

Is the store's Muslim ban legal?

The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it a crime for any place of "public accommodation" to deny service to anyone based on religion, race, color, or national origin. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations responded to the incident with a news release calling for a Department of Justice review of Florida Gun Supply and Granite State Guns, which responded to the video by announcing, "I stand beside you 100% We too are a Muslim free zone!!!"

"These bigoted declarations are no different than ‘whites only’ signs posted in businesses during a period of our nation’s history that we hoped was over," said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's national communications director.

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Mr. Hallinan told local news that he has not yet turned away a customer for being Muslim and understands it’s a difficult policy to enforce: "I'm not gong to say to him, 'Hey, are you a Muslim?' "

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Hallinan "knows very little about Islam and Muslims," said Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR in Tampa, Fla., to Fox 13. "I hope we can use this an opportunity. I think we'll change some minds and hearts through conversation and not allow our enemies to divide us," he said.

Many American Muslims have already begun a dialogue. As Public Radio International reported in June, the biggest mosque in Austin, Texas, opened its doors to the public for the breaking of the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Dusty Harshman attended the event with his Palestinian-American neighbor, Radwan Dalu:

"We're experiencing … a slow coming together of the faiths, not spiritually, but in dialogue. None of us is giving up our own faith. [But] we are very interested in living in some sort of harmony," he said.