Author: Michael Gips
Are you using proper signage to inform, prepare, and guide entrants to your facility? Proper signage plays an especially important role in advising individuals about organizational weapons policies as well as the presence of weapons detection systems (WDSs) and the preparations necessary to pass through checkpoints smoothly, efficiently, and safely.
Proper signage prepares guests for entry, before the guests reach the entryway!
Proper signage helps guests and removes the burden from your staff!
Proper Signage is really important, relatively inexpensive, and is a key communication interaction with guests. Keep testing it, researching, and improving it!
First and foremost, facilities that want to keep guns and other weapons off premises must post clear signage to that effect on every entrance to comply with many state or local laws. Otherwise, anyone licensed (and maybe unlicensed) to carry a weapon may have the right to bring it into the facility. In fact, anyone who ignores a posted sign that prohibits weapons can be charged with at least a misdemeanor in many states.
Signage requirements differ by state and often by type of facility, by licensed vs. unlicensed carry, and by openly carried vs. concealed. Texas provides an excellent example of how detailed these rules can be. For instance, Texas law establishes the following guidelines for private business owners wishing to prohibit unlicensed firearms on their property:
A person may provide notice that firearms are prohibited on the property by posting a placard at each entrance to the property that:
(1) includes language that is identical to or substantially similar to the following:
'Pursuant to Section 30.05, Penal Code (criminal trespass), a person may not enter this property with a firearm';
(2) includes the language described by Subdivision (1) in both English and Spanish;
(3) appears in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height; and
(4) is displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.
Different clauses in the Texas Penal Code govern signage banning licensed guns from private property, depending on whether the arms are concealed or openly carried.
One caveat is that if an organization posts a “no weapons” sign when it is not required by law to do so, it is signaling to bad actors that they are unlikely to face armed resistance if they attack there.
Some facilities, such as bars, must use specific signs. Alcoholic beverage retailers that derive 51 percent or more of their income from the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption must post a specific red sign. The sign has “51%” in large red letters superimposed over a warning indicating that possession of a handgun on the premises is unlawful.
By contrast, in New York, it is illegal to bring a concealed weapon into a private establishment unless one has explicit permission from the property owner in the form of a sign posted on the premises.
Beyond compliance, it’s important to use signs to prepare visitors for weapons screening so they can remove or store any arms beforehand, understand the screening procedure, prepare to be searched, and pass through expeditiously and without further screening. Such signs may set forth instructions such as what other items or actions (such as photography or audio recording) are prohibited, where to line up, and when and how quickly to pass through the portal.
The most effective weapons-related signs have the hallmarks of being hard to miss, clear, specific, direct, and compliant with state or local requirements. Appropriate signage facilitates traffic flow, minimizes incidents, and establishes expectations.