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