A new Texas law permitting gun owners to carry unconcealed weapons in public went into effect on New Year’s Day 2016. Starting this year, owners of private businesses who wish to prohibit weapons on site may do so via posted signage, but regulations on the signage has already caused more than a few headaches.
According to Texas state penal code 30.07, signs prohibiting openly carried weapons are subject to the following guidelines:
- Lettering must be a minimum of one inch
- Lettering must be in contrasting colors
- The specific, 38-word message must appear in both English and Spanish
- The signs must appear in a “conspicuous” manner at entrances
Many private businesses in Texas already have signs prohibiting people from entering the business with concealed weapons, but if business owners want to continue banning concealed weapons, they must revise those signs to match new regulations — in addition to posting new signs prohibiting openly carried weapons.
That translates to two large, highly regulated, conspicuous signs posted at all entrances, and that’s enough to grate the nerves of many Texas business owners. If the signs aren’t posted or don’t perfectly align with regulations, business owners must either: a) orally inform all individuals entering the place of business about the business’s policy on guns, or b) hand out written literature to each entrant featuring the appropriate language.
Since most business owners would rather greet potential customers with something other than “You can’t carry a gun in here,” the signs are the obvious choice — but the regulation is still proving problematic.
Critics of the regulations assert that the requirement to produce, print, and post two large signs is a clear byproduct of aggressive pro-gun lobbying measures that would seek to discourage business owners from banning guns, since the act of prohibiting them is such a hassle.
Proponents of the legislation, however, beg to differ: “You’re talking about minimal effort for [business owners] to print out an appropriate sign and put it up,” bill author Rep. Larry Phillips said, as quoted in The Dallas News.
If gun owners disregard posted signs and enter a business with a gun, they could be slapped with a misdemeanor and a $200 fine, according to The Star Telegram. And if you violate the signage and still don’t leave after a business owner tells you to do so, you could land in jail for a year and be forced to pay up to $4,000.
But if the signage isn’t exactly correct, the potential consequences are murkier — and that’s part of why the signage requirements are so controversial. There’s a website, Texas3006.com (named after the state penal code that legalizes open carrying) devoted to calling out businesses that prohibit firearms. Contributors to the website eagerly post information about businesses with signs that don’t perfectly adhere to the regulations. Some gun owners on the site view imperfect signs as an invitation to flout the mistake by purposefully entering the business with a gun.
Of course, that’s the exception. “Most gun owners respect private property rights,” said C. J. Grisham, who is the leader of the Open Carry Texas organization.
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