by Gila Hayes
We’re getting a lot of questions about No Gun signage, and understandably so as we have all kept one ear glued to the news reports about Elisjsha Dicken, the young man who stopped the Greenwood Park mall shooter in Indiana. While Indiana law includes the usual list of places where firearms possession is illegal, on most private property No Guns signs do not carry the force of law. That is not true for private property signs in all 50 states.
What does the signage mean? No Gun signs on private property in Indiana, as is true for quite a few other states, derive from the owners’ property rights to restrict what you or anyone else does on their private property.
There are lots of behaviors stores and other private properties restrict. There’s the ubiquitous dress code of No Shirt No Shoes No Service, or perhaps they don’t like it when you enthusiastically play your accordion in the shopping center, or perhaps the grocery store management asks that you don’t come inside accompanied by your pack of puppies, or as is all too common, large shopping mall chains love to post signage prohibiting possession of weapons – and that includes you and me, despite the multiple state-issued concealed carry permits and licenses filling our wallets. In brief, if the property owners don’t like what you are doing there, they can legally eject you and you are required to leave promptly when asked or you will face trespass charges in states where No Gun signage relies on private property rights alone.
Contrast Indiana law with Arkansas or Texas restrictions, for example, where No Gun signs on private property have the force of law. In most states, there’s a long list of government facilities, buildings and offices where firearms possession is illegal, but we see extreme variations in how firearms restrictions on private property are enforced. With open carry allowances as well as permitless concealed carry becoming more widely practiced, expect even more variations, restrictions and consequences for one who violates No Gun restrictions on private property. It’s tough and getting tougher.
Keeping up with the law is challenging, but keep up we must! How can you stay current on your state’s restrictions and allowances? A great starting place is https://handgunlaw.us. While that excellent resource leads with details about carry license reciprocity, it maintains up-to-date PDFs about each state’s firearm and carry laws, replete with hyperlinks to the actual laws. Use that resource and read the laws to which the links lead, and while you’re there, may I encourage you to drop a little donation in the “Want to help keep handgunlaw.us on-line?” link? This amazing resource is the thankless passion of two armed citizens who freely share their work online.
After Mr. Dicken stopped the mall shooter, social media and online news sources exploded with supposition about the No Gun signage posted by Simon Property group, the owner of the Greenwood Park Mall and a string of other shopping centers. Naturally, not all of the comments and suppositions published were rooted in fact, but that didn’t keep emotions from flaring and a lot of baseless rhetoric was spewed.
For lawfully armed citizens, this is an opportunity to refresh our understanding of our own state’s laws, allowances and restrictions. As we’ve reinforced for a number of members over the last several weeks, the Network’s assistance to members after self defense is limited to lawful use of force in self defense using weapons that are legal in the place where the incident occurs. To do anything else would put the Network in the position of having encouraged members to violate the law. For a number of obvious reasons, we can’t allow that to come about.
A handful of callers have snorted derisively (I’m pretty sure some of my email responses to these questions have earned the same response) when we suggested that where No Gun signage has the force of law, one has the option of staying away or carrying alternative self defense options. The reaction only underscores what an independent-minded, self-sufficient community armed citizens are! At the same time, I am reminded of the advice my friend Penny Dean, an attorney back east, gives when she urges, “If you can’t afford the ticket, don’t get on the carnival ride.” That “take responsibility” attitude was echoed by Chris Cerino on a Gun Talk midweek podcast (https://www.guntalk.com/) when he stressed that if he should be in a mall that’s subject to No Gun restrictions, he was prepared to accept the punishment for violating the restriction; he owns the decisions he makes. We should all adopt the same philosophy of personal responsibility for our decisions.
Knowledge is a great protector! Know your state gun laws! Start with https://handgunlaw.us and follow the hyperlinks to your own state laws and codes online. For more discussion of ways to research laws in your jurisdiction, give a listen to Network President Marty Hayes Armed Citizens Educational Foundation’s presentation on Researching Your State Statutory and Case Law https://youtu.be/C1GWm28M8g8 . Ignorance is never an excuse.
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