Our great republic has diversity across its 50 States. But a commonality across the States that gun owners are sure to notice are signs. Specifically, signs at businesses that state something like ‘no weapons allowed.'
I don't want to rehash the same old topic of how utterly ridiculous these signs are. Anyone with the least bit of common sense knows that putting up a sign like this makes no one the least bit safer. Well, I take that back. These signs do embolden criminals who see unarmed people in these
‘gun free zones' ‘criminal protection zones' as soft targets. So yeah, criminals are absolutely safer in these locations … way to go business owner.
People can deny these obvious truths, heck people still argue the Earth is flat. But a lot of business owners aren't part of the Flat Earth Society. So why do they put these signs up, and is it even legal to ban legal law abiding concealed carriers?
Why Post These Ridiculous Signs in the First Place?
1. Ignorance of the law –
Business owners concern themselves with liability. And rightfully so! They often draw a parallel between the person who slips on a wet floor, and the person who is accidentally shot with a firearm. They fear a civil suit from both. But this correlation is inaccurate.
Many states have laws protecting business owners from such lawsuits. Even States that don't have specific laws, still require the injured person show how the business was somehow negligent. I can see the business owner's negligence if they fail to warn customers of a slippery wet floor …
… but do people honestly believe a business owner is liable for ANY injury sustained on their property? Is the store owner liable if one customer punches another and injures their hand? Of course not!
2. Misunderstanding of guns –
This goes without saying. Some people have a real fear of guns. They believe merely being near a gun puts them in some sort of peril. This causes them to apply their personal belief that guns are dangerous and bad.
3. State-sponsored prohibition-
States require business owners post certain information for their employees. Some of the materials come directly from that State's Labor Department. Several states (including the one in which I reside) include no gun policy signage with these materials. This creates a situation where a business owner may believe they MUST have such a policy. Or maybe a store owner is too lazy to change it or just wants to err on the side of caution.
Is it Legal?
This is the argument that I find intriguing. I may upset many of you but before I present the legality of it all, I'll tell you my opinion.
Private business owners should be free to choose if they allow weapons inside their business or not.
I feel such a policy is stupid for all the reasons already stated, but I also believe the State should not dictate who or what the private business owner must allow into their store. With some narrow exceptions …
There are federal and state level laws that do regulate this very thing. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it a Federal crime to discriminate. Other legislation would follow, creating ‘protected classes.' These include:
- national origin
- sex (sexual orientation)
- familial status
- genetic information
States are free to create additional protected classes, and many have done so.
But you see firearm owners is not a protected class. Several states have unsuccessfully attempted to label firearm owners as a protected class, so business owners may lawfully discriminate or refuse service to armed customers.
What about my Constitutional Rights?
I do understand the bill of rights. The Second Amendment and the Heller decision have affirmed that we have the right to keep and bear arms. Not merely for hunting, or solely inside our home, but for our protection. This does, in fact, extend outside of our home.
However, the Bill of Rights protects the individual from the Government, not other private citizens. So private business owners can limit constitutional rights on private property. It makes sense right?
Wearing a Nazi swastika armband is protected speech under the First Amendment. Someone wearing one while walking on a public street cannot be arrested. But, a private business owner can certainly refuse service to the person wearing the armband.
This is exactly why private business owners should have a say on who and what they allow into their businesses. Imagine if the owner of a bakery, who happened to be a Holocaust survivor was forced to allow Nazis to gather in his store.
But Here is my Issue!
My issue is not the fact that armed people can be barred service in privately owned businesses (although it's stupid). My issue is with how the violation is criminalized.
The law varies from state to state. The violation in some states is a criminal charge, in other a civil charge.
Some states place the burden of proof on the prosecution to show the gun owner should have reasonably seen the sign.
In some states it's worse! Absent some extenuating condition, the assumption is that the gun owner knows the store policy. No verbal notification, or refusal to leave is necessary. This turns law-abiding citizens into criminals.
Think back to the dude with the swastika armband. Say he walks into the business that prohibits Nazis inside the store. By simply walking in the store, he/she wouldn't be arrested. Only after being told the policy and asked to leave would a trespassing charge be pursued.
Why should this be different for a citizen who is simply doing something that is also a protected right? You know, carrying a firearm for personal protection.
And I'll give you this to ponder: Many states allow places funded with taxpayer money to prohibit law-abiding concealed carriers. Zoos and libraries commonly are funded with your tax dollars. Yet many of these places have clearly posted no weapon signs. Isn't it wrong to have to pay for something, and be excluded from enjoying it?
What to Do?
- vote- You can't complain if you are not part of the process.
- stay informed in your state's representatives stances on gun issues- Vote out those who would legislate away your gun rights.
- join activist groups- Join a national gun advocacy group that fights for gun owner's rights. There are also local groups whose goal is to lobby the state for your legal gun rights.
Sound off and let us know how you feel about your state's law regarding armed citizens on private property.
Stay safe and God bless.