Gun Control: Can a Sign Really Make a Difference?

I received a tweet from someone on Sunday who labeled those signs prohibiting guns in business establishments — particularly inside the Aurora, Colorado, theater where a gunman opened fire early Friday morning — as “anti-self-defense” signs.

I can think of no greater testament to how differently people think when it comes to the Second Amendment.

Is it an “anti-self-defense” sign? Or an “anti-offense” sign?

I happen to believe that Americans have a right — and should have a right — to own a gun if they wish. But I don’t see that sign as “anti-self-defense.” To even suggest such a thing, in my book, completely misses the point. And that miss, I suspect, is intentional and calculated.

Let’s move to the highway: there are some people who are extremely responsible drivers, who behave exactly as the law requires, never speed, never get a ticket and never have an accident.

Unfortunately, there’s not a separate highway system just for them. Those people, the responsible ones, have to share the road with a bunch of road-rage-inspired crackpots who were able to demonstrate enough knowledge and competence to get a driver’s license, yet drive irresponsibly and put others — innocent others — in danger.

It is for the irresponsible drivers that signs along the road way limit the speed at which everyone can go. Because if the sign only suggested that the speed limit was for irresponsible drivers, none of the irresponsible ones would ever think the sign applied to them.

The intent of the speed limit is to keep everyone safe by attempting to control the crackpots that otherwise wouldn’t know how to properly handle themselves.

Some have suggested that for a guy who is hellbent on murdering as many people as he can, a “50¢ cardboard sign” won’t make a difference.

They say it as if they think they’re revealing the discovery of the age. Well, of course it won’t! A sign is never going to stop a would-be mass murderer from carrying out his plan.

But, then, that fifty-cent sign isn’t meant to stop a would-be mass murderer.

It’s designed to stop the crackpots among gun owners who don’t want to kill anyone, or even hurt anyone, but who just aren’t as responsible as they ought to be.

I have some friends who are gun owners, and because of specific training they’ve gone through, I’d have no problem being around them if they were carrying a concealed weapon. And I may well have: if their gun were properly concealed, I wouldn’t have known they were carrying to begin with, would I?

But I know them and I know they’ve been trained, drilled and trained some more.

If I’m in a crowded theater, or a restaurant or a stadium, I have to hope that everyone who might have a concealed weapon is just as responsible and well-trained as people I know personally and trust. I have to hope that none among them is the kind of guy (or gal) who’d react first and think later, who’d take an unwarranted action against what might look like a threat but really isn’t. I have to trust that none among them would make a severe tactical mistake that would only make someone else with a gun make a mistake of his own in a chain reaction. Particularly when chain reactions in which guns are involved always carry the possibility of ending very badly.

I have to be willing, in every public place, to put my lives in the hands of everyday people I don’t know and who aren’t highly-trained law enforcement officers. That’s a bit much to ask in my book.

If someone in that Colorado theater had been armed, it is unquestionably possible that he could have ended the threat sooner. Anyone, however, who attempts to argue that it is impossible that he might also have injured the wrong person or reacted badly under a real-life pressure few people are ever prepared to deal with is completely out of his mind. And it’s also possible that anyone who might have been armed in that theater might not have reacted just because he didn’t feel he had a clear shot.

Why is that so difficult to understand?

No, a sign banning concealed weapons won’t stop a mass murder determined to kill. But a sign isn’t meant to do that.

The sign is meant to keep those who aren’t determined to kill but who happen to be just irresponsible — or hot-headed — enough to be dangerous from being as dangerous. That’s all.

You may be ten times more responsible with your gun as anyone else in your state is with his. But surely you must know that owning a gun doesn’t automatically make you a responsible gun user, any more than owning a car makes you a responsible driver.

If we could all just be honest and stop trying to cloud the argument, we’d admit that we all know this. It is, after all, common sense.


    1. @frail_liberty Very interesting point! Would one who’s planned as well as he allegedly did NEED a sign’s help? Worth considering, though.

      1. @patricksplace His meticulous planning means he probably did reconnaissance, so I would say quite possibly yes.

  1. Hello again Patrick,
    All valid points.  You may, however, have missed one implication of the tweet labeling a the sign as an “anti-self-defense” sign.
    In the gun-community, these are commonly called “gun-buster” signs.  One of the meanings of referring to them as “anti-self-defense” signs is that they could serve as a notice persons intent on doing harm that they will meet no citizen armed resistance within the establishment posting that sign.
    So regardless of the business owners reasons of posting the sign, one argument is that it is essentially advertising the fact that the establishment in question is a ‘victim rich zone’.  Essentially, it is less about intentions than about the net result.

    1.  @frail_liberty  True; Colorado had last March, passed Campus Carry, Possibly avoiding a Mass School shooting like Virginia Tech in doing so as “The Theater shooter” dropped out of school where he might encounter return fire, and chose to attack in an essentially no-guns welcome zone.  I do not go where I’m not welcome to defend my life, I think little of those who think that little of me and my family.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.