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The US museums that will let you carry a gun – no joke, alas

8 January 2016

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

The museum world reacted to the massacres in Paris, California and Tunisia last year with alarm. Understandably, many institutions have decided to up their security in response, in some cases introducing airport-style scanners and more thorough bag checks. Others, however, have taken a rather different approach.

One such institution is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in Colorado. For some years, the museum has operated out of line with Colorado state policy by requesting that visitors do not carry concealed firearms on the premises, regardless of whether or not they held a licence to do so. To all but the most zealous of libertarians, anti-gun guidelines seem anything but objectionable.

Or, at least, they did. The museum has now decided to reverse its policy, allowing licensed patrons to bear arms when visiting.

‘Paris and San Bernardino got people thinking: “are we really doing best practices?”’, says Ed Scholz, vice president of finance and operations. The logic, as you will no doubt already have assessed, is faultless: the ‘best practice’ to stop anyone getting shot on site is, quite obviously, to flood it with guns.

Somewhat alarmingly, a poll by the Denver Business Journal has found that some 65% of participants are in favour of the move. (No info as yet on whether this is the same gun nut repeatedly taking the survey online). While you might imagine the question of carrying firearms in a museum is something of a no brainer, a cursory search of the more trigger happy internet forums reveals that it is quite the hot potato.

Should you be hell bent on packing some heat with your culture, you needn’t restrict yourself to Denver. ArtNews has published a handy list of the other US museums with gun friendly admission policies, including the Pratt Museum in Homer, Alaska, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the University of Maine Art Museum.

Before you decide, it’s worth having a look at the ‘mission statements’ of the institutions named (linked above). In short: much saintly talk of ‘enriching cultural life’ etc, but little about blasting suspected terrorists. Ultimately, you might as well just visit an NRA museum. These places, at least, don’t pretend to be paragons of cultural virtue.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.