Indiana: Arming delivery drivers a tossup for pizzerias

Owners of Ohio pizza-deliveries, which are have posted discriminatory signs banning concealed handgun license-holders, need to read about how well-adjusted most of their peers in Indiana are when it comes to self-defense.

July 16, 2004
Indianapolis Star

Chains won't let workers carry guns, but local eateries say employees need protection from robbery hazards.

Personal protection has become just as much a part of the pizza delivery business as pepperoni and tomato sauce.

But even in a field that is among the nation's most dangerous, workers, managers and safety experts remain divided on whether guns provide additional protection against robberies and other forms of violence.

Many national chains bar drivers from carrying weapons, saying firearms are too risky. Yet most local restaurants contacted by The Indianapolis Star will not stop a worker from taking a gun along if the employee can do so legally.

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Driver Norman McCormick, who works for a Papa John's franchise on the Southside of Indianapolis, does not carry a gun, but he realizes the risks in his line of work.

"This job can be dangerous," said McCormick, "particularly if you work in an area that has high crime."

Studies underscore that the danger drivers face is real. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks delivery work more lethal than the roofing or construction trades, and safer only than careers in aviation, fishing, logging and steel-working.

"My sense is it's getting worse," said Steve Coomes, editor of PizzaMarketplace. com, an industry Web site. "The violence of the crimes committed is increasing."

The hazards came to the forefront in Indianapolis this summer when Pizza Hut driver Ronald B. Honeycutt shot a man who investigators say tried to rob him.

Honeycutt was not charged in the Far-Eastside slaying, but he lost his job. Pizza Hut bars drivers from carrying guns.

That incident was one of at least 33 robbery attempts against pizza delivery drivers in Marion County since January, according to figures from the Indianapolis Police Department and Marion County Sheriff's Department.

A check showed many nationwide firms, such as Pizza Hut and Domino's Pizza, ban guns at work. Officials at Papa John's did not return calls for comment.

A manager at a Northside Noble Roman's restaurant, Tessa Collins, said her shop does let drivers carry guns as long as they follow all gun laws.

Officials at the chain's Indianapolis headquarters were unavailable to comment on the company's policy.

No organization tracks how many pizza delivery drivers are armed, but locally owned restaurants seemed more accepting of gun-carrying drivers. Managers at several such shops reported no policies prohibiting drivers from having concealed handguns.

At Piezanos Pizza on the Northwestside and at Aunt Polly's on the Eastside, managers said drivers who possess legal permits would be allowed to have their weapons on the job.

Aunt Polly's manager Scott Webb said three of his 10 or so delivery drivers carry handguns.

"If your guys have a gun permit, let them have it," said Robert Taylor, owner of Taylor Made Pizza in Downtown Indianapolis.

He sometimes makes deliveries and says he carries a gun, although he has never had to use it. "A lot of times, that cell phone is more important than a gun."

One industry expert said he believes the number of drivers with guns is relatively small, even when employers allow weapons.

"I would bet that the average is lower than for the general populace," said J.W. Callahan, head of the Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers. "Many people obviously follow the rules at work. If the majority of drivers didn't follow the rules, there would be more dead pizza driver robbers."

George Ralph, Domino's national director of safety and security, said he doesn't believe carrying guns is the answer.

"Law enforcement will tell you that if a person is carrying a weapon, there's more likelihood that that weapon will be taken away from them and used against them," Ralph said. "There's a greater chance for a violent act to occur."

Delivery work is getting more dangerous. U.S. Department of Labor statistics showed an increase in deaths among pizza and other delivery drivers, from 27 per 100,000 in 2000 to 38 per 100,000 in 2002, the most recent year for which numbers are available. That includes laundry route drivers, vending machine stockers and milk delivery drivers.

Many of the fatalities are from traffic crashes, but an increasing share -- almost a quarter -- are a result of crime.

"You're more likely to be robbed than doing anything else," said Callahan.

So far, the veteran pizza deliveryman has 600 members interested in forming a drivers union.

The fears about personal safety may be higher among pizza delivery drivers than among other types of delivery workers. Indianapolis floral drivers, for example, sometimes encounter trouble but say they have few concerns.

"No risk at all," said Jack Hagan, who delivers for Andrews Florists' Downtown location. "There's nothing there."

Part of the difference is that flowers are usually delivered during the day, while most pizza is delivered at night.

Also, flower deliveries often go to such places as offices, hospitals and funeral homes, while pizzas go to houses and apartments.

And those differences are among the reasons some local drivers believe they need guns to lessen the dangers of their jobs.

"We haven't had that much trouble, but everyone knows I allow my guys to carry a gun," said Taylor. "Pizza Hut has trouble because they're not allowed to carry guns -- that's why they get picked on."

The following pizzerias have posted signs discriminating against concealed handgun license-holders in Ohio:

  • Cassano Pizza & Subs, Monroe
  • Chesters Pizza, Hamilton
  • Donatos Pizza, all Ohio stores
  • Gaetanos Pizza+Wings, Campbell
  • Galaxy Pizza, Cambridge
  • Papa John's, 12 stores in Akron
  • Papa John's, Cambridge
  • Pizza Hut, Solon
  • Wally’s Pizza, Cambridge
  • Your Pizza Shop, Louisville
  • Zeppe's Pizza, Northfield

    Contact information can be found in the Do Not Patronize While Armed Database.

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