A federal judge has quashed a lawsuit filed by a Muslim advocacy organization against a Florida gun shop owner who made headlines this summer by declaring his business a “Muslim Free Zone.”
The suit, filed in July by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), argued that the exclusionary measure amounted to religious discrimination and violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The suit asked the a federal court for an injunction against the store. But according to the Tampa Bay Times, U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom ruled that “she did not have the authority to make a decision on the case” because, the newspaper reported, the store’s policy “did not present an imminent and concrete threat to Muslim people.”
Reached by telephone Monday, Andy Hallinan — the owner of Florida Gun Supply in Inverness, Fla. — told The Washington Post that the suit was “a joke.”
“The only reason they filed this was to keep money coming from their supporters and to keep their group in the headlines,” he said. “It backfired and they look like idiots now.”
Thania Clevenger, the Civil Rights Director for CAIR Florida, said her organization lost because of legal standing, not because of the merit of its argument.
Comparing the “Muslim-free” sign to Jim Crow-era businesses having “whites only” signs on their front doors, she said the fight is “far from over.”
“The bottom line is we actually find the opinion from the judge to be in our favor,” Clevenger said, noting that the order says that Title II of the Civil Rights Act is designed to address similar circumstances. “We’ll be filing an appeal or other type of motion to have the case reconsidered. It’s very early on in the proceedings.”
Clevenger said CAIR has 15 to 30 days to file its next motion.
Hallinan originally declared his business a “Muslim-Free Zone” in a video posted on YouTube that showed the 28-year-old standing in front of a Confederate flag, explaining that his decision was inspired by the Chattanooga shootings. In the video, Hallinan said he refused to arm and train anyone who wished to harm his “fellow patriots.”
To pay his legal bills, Hallinan teamed up with George Zimmerman to sell a series of prints of a Confederate flag painting by Zimmerman. The painting included the inscription, “The 2nd protects our 1st,” which Zimmerman described as a “double entendre.” The proceeds were supposed to be split evenly among the two men.
Hallinan told The Post that he would sell weapons to followers of Islam who did not adhere to a literal interpretation of the Koran.
“We get to know each and every one of our customers,” he said. “If the hair on the back of our neck raises for any person — regardless of their race or religion or anything else — we will not sell to them. If I came to believe this person didn’t believe in a literal interpretation of the Koran, then they would, in theory, be able to purchase a gun.”
In his latest video, posted on Facebook after the lawsuit against him was thrown out, Hallinan refers to the members of CAIR as “terrorists” and says “justice has been served.”
“We’re not selling Barbie dolls here, we’re selling firearms and we need to make sure we’re putting guns in people’s hands that are going to do good things in the community with them — like keeping peace, not blowing people up.”
Hallinan goes on to reveal Muslim-free-zone bumper stickers and shooting targets depicting an armed man in a turban. The targets encourage shooters to aim at the crotch area.
“What’s the difference between a jihadi and E.T.?” Hallinan asks in the video. “Yeah, E.T. got the message and went home.”
When the suit was filed, Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of CAIR Florida, said the “Muslim Free Zone” declaration was only going to increase tensions in the state instead of resolving conflicts.
“Such discrimination is not only illegal, it is bad for our country and makes us less safe and less free,” Shibly said in a statement in July.
At the time, Hallinan invited Shibly to come to the gun shop and discuss their differences — and to train to shoot with him. But the gun store owner withdrew the invitation, according to USA Today, “after receiving a flood of e-mails and calls from people that he said warned him that CAIR had been put on the United Arab Emirates’ list of designated terrorist groups.”
Despite never meeting up to shoot, Hallinan told The Post that he and Shibly communicate via text about court-related items and share a grudging respect for one another.
“We’re frenemies,” Hallinan said. “We both have supporters and are both fighting adamantly for our beliefs.”
“I wouldn’t consider him a friend,” he added. “I consider him a very worth adversary. Picture the medieval days where kings gather on a battlefield and they respect each others honor, but still have to fight.”