By MATTHEW RAND
WHITESBURG, Ky. (WYMT) – Owners of a Letcher County gun store fired off a round of controversy this week when they adopted a new policy banning Muslims from the store.
Jace Firearms co-owner Jill Stidham says they enacted the ban in response to the killings of five service members last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“Islam is a religion of hate, and they are bringing hate upon our country every day,” she said.
Stidham says they changed the sign in the storefront window Wednesday to read “MUSLIM-FREE GUN STORE” in response to a video by a Florida gun store owner who declared his business a “Muslim-Free Zone” in the wake of military shootings last week in Tennessee.
Stidham could not say how they would determine which customers were Muslim.
Stidham also put up a Confederate flag last week, saying she feels targeted for being white.
“We’re losing more and more of our freedom every day. We used to live in a free country. I don’t feel like we live in a free country any more,” she said.
Questions remain about whether the ban violates federal law, and while some people are defending the store’s new policy, others say it hurts the community.
“We are in the process of trying to get people to come to this town, and when you drive by something like that almost makes it look like we’re intolerant of outsiders,” said Letcher County resident Robert Hatch.
Stidham says she knew both the flag and the sign would invite controversy, but stands by both.
“As far as I know, I have the freedom of speech, and that’s no more than freedom of speech,” she said.
Anyone who objects to the ban, Stidham says, can take their business elsewhere.
Stidham tells affiliate station WYMT her store will go out of business at the end of next month.