Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans ♥ Bank Robbers

An article in The Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee caught my eye yesterday. "Concealed Carry Law Stumps Bankers" (subscription required) outlines the difficulty Wisconsin banks, saving & loans, and credit unions face in operating under the state's new law allowing "concealed carry" of guns anywhere in the state (with the exception of the building where the legislators themselves work).

"On one hand, prohibiting guns in bank lobbies would seem like a no-brainer. Of the bank robberies in Wisconsin during 2010, 83% involved the robber showing a weapon or threatening to use one, according to the Community Bankers of Wisconsin.

"However, the law is written in such a way that banks and other businesses that post 'no guns' signs run a legal risk of being found liable for damages if someone is injured when a gun is discharged on the business premises. The law gives immunity from liability to businesses that do not post a concealed-weapons notice, but does not protect from liability businesses that prohibit concealed weapons in their premises by posting an appropriate notice, according to a memo the Community Bankers Association sent to its members."

Churches, bars, and other venues face the same legal exposure if they would prefer patrons to check their guns at the door.

I may have gotten a taste of the future of American banking during a vacation in Italy in 2009. I hadn't been able to get Euros from my bank at home before I left, so my plan was to exchange dollars for Euros as soon as I got to Italy. Knowing that the exchange rate at airports is generally less favorable than exchange rates elsewhere, I and the three other members of our family on the trip went looking for a bank the morning after we landed.

At every bank we found, customers had to use a security entrance of one sort or another. At the first bank, we couldn't figure out how the portal (I can't call it a door) worked. At the second, we had to remove all our metal items -- belts, coins, etc. -- outside the bank and place them into lockers on the street. Then we had to enter a small cubicle one at a time; the cubicle had sliding glass doors at either end that were controlled by someone inside the bank.

Maybe this is just a feature of Italian banks, but clearly, dealing with individual consumers inside the bank was not something they particularly enjoy doing. They dealt with my brother-in-law Gary's exchange first, then an Italian customer who came in after us, then finally me; there was only one person in the bank handling us customers, and she was very slow about it. Very. Very. Slow. But that's beside the point.

When it came time for us to leave, it was through that same glassed-in cubicle. The Italian customer was long gone, but Gary, Patty, and Chris had waited inside for me. Gary left second-to-last; the door to the street caught only partly open, but he was able to squeeze through. I went through last, and the doors stuck closed with me trapped in the cubicle.

The banking employees were annoyed, but in no way alarmed or apologetic. Indeed, they showed the same lack of interest that we had seen throughout our banking experience. Nobody came over to check the door, which leads me to believe that there was nothing new about the doors getting stuck and they knew that resetting the controls or whatever they were doing inside the bank would eventually work. And eventually it did.

But I've never bothered to step inside a European bank since. I'm no claustrophobe, but I'd rather pay the ATM fee.

Of course, gun controls are stricter in Europe, but they have more experience with terrorism (and the mafia) over there, and have learned to live with certain security measures that are still strange to us Americans.

As long as our gun-happy, tea partisan, careless legislators can't tell the difference between a bank and a barn, we may have to get used to them before long.

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