OH in the newsroom: “Why is there a ‘No Weapons Allowed’ sign on our door?” by Leah St. James

Why is there a ‘No Weapons Allowed’ sign on our door?

Image courtesy of Morgue Files

Image courtesy of morgueFile

That question was recently posed by one of the reporters returning to the newsroom after an assignment. As her words filtered into our consciousness, fingers stopped tapping away at keyboards, heads turned away from screens to look…and I said, “What ‘No Weapons Allowed’ sign?” (My husband often asks me how I can write fiction when my powers of observation are so lamentably…lame.)

Anyway, turns out there is a bit of a story behind this question. A man who had a scheduled meeting with our editorial board showed up with a holstered handgun at his waist. The person who was to escort him upstairs had recently moved to our area from North Carolina where, it seems, it’s common practice for businesses to post signs that no weapons are permitted on the property.


Image courtesy of morgueFile

So when the visitor entered our building at that moment, the clearly visible handgun hanging off his waist, our staffer looked immediately to the door for a sign indicating whether or not weapons were permitting. As there was no sign to the contrary, the assumption was made that weapons were permitted.

When leadership discovered what had occurred, the sign was hastily made and posted.

You just don’t know what you don’t know… right?

I mean, as a native north-easterner, it would never occur to me to ask about open-carry laws. My assumption is that you can’t. Period. I raised my family in one of the top ten safest cities (per capita) in the country (in New Jersey, mind you). Crime happened, but our bad-ass local cops kept the typical “street thug” types away. Plus, I think half of us figured as long as you made nice with the Mafia family down the street, you’d be okay! (:-) Just a little fun with the stereotype of my native Jersey!)

All kidding aside, to me, the thought of people running around with weapons at the ready is something out of a James Bond or Lethal Weapon movie. It doesn’t happen in real life.

That is, until I moved to Virginia. Little did I know before making the trek south that the Commonwealth of Virginia is an open-carry state. In fact, according to website opencarry.org, “Virginia is one of our ‘Gold Star’ open carry states. There is complete state preemption of all firearms laws, open carry is increasingly common and law enforcement is well educated as to its legality.”

When I read this, after I forced myself to start breathing again, all I could think was, “WHAT?! I moved to a place where people are ‘increasingly’ carrying weapons…in plain sight?!”

I was the kind of mom who wouldn’t let my kids go to other kids’ homes if I found out they had weapons…especially if that little tidbit came directly from the kids in the family and not the parents. (Some of these kids actually confided to me where the weapons, and ammunition, were “hidden.”)

It’s not that I think weapons by themselves are bad. I do believe that “guns don’t kill people,” but I also believe it makes sense to limit access to people who are properly trained in their use and storage, and who aren’t half-crazed on drugs or just half-crazed, period.

Truly, I don’t want to get into the gun debate here. There are pros and cons on both sides, and I’m certainly not qualified to settle the issue. So I guess my point is, if you’re planning a move to an area that’s culturally different from what you’re used to, it might be prudent to look at all those aspects of an area before you move: crime statistics, economy, jobs, schools…and whether residents are permitted to prance around town like Dirty Harry, with a trusty .44 Magnum at the ready.

Just saying.




7 thoughts on “OH in the newsroom: “Why is there a ‘No Weapons Allowed’ sign on our door?” by Leah St. James

  1. Being oblivious has it’s good points too – look at all the things we have no control over, that we never notice. Think of the time and stress that saves, and if some asshole blows you away, who cares as long as the NRA and gun manufacturers continue to thrive?

    • Yeah, I guess I was operating under “ignorance is bliss.” But then, it depends on your point of view, right?

  2. Well, I nevah. This might be something I’d expect if I lived in the Wild West, but not in the Old Dominion. Guess that just shows how oblivious I am as well, Elvy! For some reason, Leah, I’d think all offices of the Fourth Estate would have such signs, for reasons too numerous and obvious to state. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    • It’s one of those things, Denise, that you don’t think about. According to that same website, New Jersey is one of the top five most restrictive states in the nation, so that was my reality for most of my life. I wonder if we’ll start to see more and more people out and about toting their weapons! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Leah, For someone that doesn’t “want to get into the gun debate here” you sure are painting a dark picture of law abiding citizens of the Commonwealth “prance around town like Dirty Harry”. As an author and, I’m assuming, a news reporter of some sort, I would suggest that maybe you should do a bit more research about the number of open carry folks, or conceal carry folks for that matter, being involved in firearms related crimes. Unfortunately, you are perpetrating a stereotype that is false. As a former member of the armed forces and a concealed handgun permit holder, I find this very offensive. Attempting to link a citizen following the law with a “thug” that will be “some asshole (who) blows you away” is ridiculous. I have worked with several local authors on this research, and personally watched as several of them took basic handgun safety courses in recent years. I would extend my expertise to you and any others that might want to meet at a local range and learn some basic firearm safety and get the opportunity to learn more about firearms and do some additional research. Also, just as an FYI, your new sign do not carry the weight of Law in the Commonwealth. State law says “No Firearm” signs in Virginia have no force of law unless they are posted on property that is specifically mentioned in State Law as being off limits to those with a Permit/License to Carry.

    • Hi, James. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your point of view, and I know you’re not alone. I truly was not attempting to advocate one way or the other on legal gun ownership, or to impugn lawful gun owners. It’s clear that’s how I came off though, so I do apologize for offending you and others who share your feelings.

      I merely wanted to point out (in a bit of a tongue-in-cheek manner that obviously failed) that every state is different with regard to open-carry laws, and to be aware of the laws in your own state–because you might not be comfortable with them.

      The law enforcement officers in my town in New Jersey WERE known for being “bad-ass,” but far from criticizing them for it, I was grateful for them. They kept me and my family safe for more than 20 years.

      My point is, a law enforcement officer or member of the armed services openly wearing a weapon is one thing, an unknown person on the street or in an office building is another. I can look at that police officer and presume that he or she had the proper training to use that weapon, will be held accountable for its use and is in a sound state of mind. I can’t say the same for someone like the man who walked into the building on that occasion.

      I hope you can understand that point of view, as well.

      Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I do appreciate it!

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