Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thoughts on Binding Signage

One big area of discussion and even sometimes dissension within the gunnie community is around so-called "binding signage". For those that don't know, in some states and localities where the carriage of weapons is allowed (whether open or concealed), businesses are legally authorized to post signage banning weapons on their premises. Frequently, the formatting and textual content of the signs are regulated by statute.
Ohio Binding Signage
There are some gunnies that maintain that binding signage should be illegal, contending that it's an infringement on their right to keep and bear arms. I have heard others say something along the lines of "I don't care if they post or not. My gun's concealed, and they won't know if I'm carrying or not."

As much as I support the 2A and gun rights, I can't support this particular stance. What we're running into here is a collision or conflict of rights. I personally feel that a business owner should be able to set reasonable restrictions on his patrons, whether they are on attire, behavior or almost anything else. Freedom of Association and Freedom of Contract come into play here.

As gunnies, we absolutely have the right to protest, to send letters, to refuse to do business, and to encourage businesses to change their policies. What we don't have the right to do is ignore lawfully posted signage. We cannot, in good faith, argue that our rights should be respected while at the same time ignoring the rights of others.

Now, I think governmental entities should NOT be allowed to post binding signage. The Second Amendment, and similar state statutory and constitutional guarantees, are supposed to be checks on governmental overreach. Based on that, I don't think the government should be able to restrict the lawful carry of weapons on its properties.

The stickier proposition for me has to do with non-binding signage. They do not have legal force, but they are obviously expressing the proprietor's intentions. For example, in Kentucky the binding signage laws apply to concealed carry only. Theoretically, even if signage is posted, open carry is still permissible (the Commonwealth has constitutionally-protected open carry with full state preemption). That being said, if you open carry in there, you should be fully prepared to leave when asked. If you refuse to leave, you are now subject to criminal trespass statutes.

Here is my personal position on non-binding signage. I think gunnies should respect those signs. A business should be free to do business with whomever they desire, and should not have to do business with those they'd rather not. Obviously, if "no guns allowed" signs are actively proscribed by law, then that's a whole different scenario. But where the law is silent, we should be respectful of one another's positions.

Advocate for a business to change? Absolutely.

Completely ignore their wishes? Not so much.

We have other battles we should be fighting instead.


  1. I think that people should respect the sings where they can.

    I live in a small city between two large ones so I have plenty of options if a company post non-binding signage.
    On the other hand, there are some places that ONLY carry the product I need/want or in small towns are the only game around; so I would ignore signs in those cases.

    My reasoning is simply; I think that store is trying to play both sides of the fence. The statute and exact wording to LEGALLY exclude gun owners is simple to find. Heck many retail supply shops sell pre-printed signs.

    So they post a sign they know isn't legal and it gives the antis a warm fuzzy feeling and the pro-rights people are given a wink, nod, nudge nudge permission.

    1. Bob,

      I think that's a slightly different situation, and one that I neglected to cover. If statutes prescribe HOW signage should be posted, and the signage in place is non-compliant, then I think that signage can be discounted. The law is NOT neutral in this case.

      But what would you do in a situation where they were the only game in town, and had the legally prescribed signage in place? Would you still ignore the signs? What if the law was neutral on signage, and they had a sign posted?

    2. Merlin,

      If it is the only game in town, I would patronize the store but not carry in normal conditions.
      I reserve the right to change my mind if there is civil unrest, high crime in the area, etc.

      It is a fine line. I do respect their right to exclude objects that offend them. I also will exercise my right to show them how little respect I have for them if they do so.

      Luckily it doesn't come up often in Texas; between being a CHL friendly area and multiple venues (including the web) we can shop a variety of places.

  2. I'd be OK with private business owners being able to post. So long as their willing to accept full responsibility for their patrons' safety while they are going to, in, or going from their establishment.

    1. That's another aspect to the whole discussion that perhaps I should have addressed.

      One of the excuses given for stores posting signage is that they don't want the liability if Customer Joe Bob ventilates Customer Francoise.

      I think states that have included liability waivers and limitations for stores that do not post signage are going about things the right way.