The folly of “Posted Properties”

In a lot of states, there is a provision in the concealed carry law that allows property owners to prohibit legal concealed carry on premises. The gunny term for this is a Posted Property. Sometimes we just say “that place is posted.”

Here in Tennessee, TCA 39-17-1359 is what governs us.

It’s a bit chatty, but basically it says that if there is a “Circle-slash” graphic, or a text sign that says “AS AUTHORIZED BY T.C.A. ยง 39-17-1359, POSSESSION OF A WEAPON ON POSTED PROPERTY OR IN A POSTED BUILDING IS PROHIBITED AND IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE,” then you can be charged with a crime*. If you, as a carry permit holder, are caught carrying in one of these places, it’s a Class B Misdemeanor. The punishment? A $500 fine, and a Class B Misdemeanor on your record for the rest of your life. The fine is nothing, but having to answer “Yes” on those employment questionnaires that ask if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime will cost you a lot more in lost wages. This is why I don’t ignore these signs.

You may noticed that I threw the “if you are a carry permit holder” qualifier in there. The reason for that is if you are caught carrying a firearm in a place that is open to the public (like a business), and you don’t have a carry permit, that’s an entirely different offense. It’s also why we have carry permits in the first place, to exempt us from that law. In Tennessee, that law is TCA 39-17-1307. It’s a Class A Misdemeanor, which is just shy of a felony. Unless, of course, you’ve previously been convicted of a felony–in that case you’ve got another Class E Felony on your hands. Now, this law does not specify sentences so that’s up to the judge, but a Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $2000 and one day short of a year in the county jail.

So let’s say Bob and Jim are both carrying pistols. Bob has a carry permit, Jim does not. Neither has ever been so much as arrested for a crime. They each head to Toys R Us to pick up a Tickle Me Elmo. On the way in, they see the sign that prohibits weapons.

If Bob walks in, his potential marginal cost is walking out with a criminal record and a $500 fine. If he stays outside, nothing happens to him.

If Jim walks in, his potential marginal cost is only the $500 fine. Without the sign, he’d still be facing a criminal record (worse than Bob’s), a $2000 fine, and a year in jail–even if he stays outside.

The obvious question we always ask is, If Jim hasn’t been deterred by the potential of a year in jail and a $2000 fine, why would he be deterred by an additional $500 fine? That would be assuming that he was actually charged with both crimes, which I doubt would happen. The answer, of course, is that he wouldn’t, and only an idiot would believe otherwise. And in this example Jim is not intent on robbing, raping, or murdering anyone, nor has he been to jail before.

Which brings us to the real reason why posting is a complete joke:

Jim wouldn’t be looking for the sign in the first place. Only Bob would.

That’s the reason posting is so pointless. The only people who look for the signs are carry permit holders. Criminals and people who don’t carry won’t notice. Even people who are rabidly anti-gun won’t look for the postings. Don’t believe me? Ask someone you know who doesn’t carry where the last place they went out to eat was, then ask them if it was a posted property. They won’t know because it doesn’t matter to them. Heck, they probably won’t even know what a posting looks like.

I’ve had business owners tell me that posting reduces their liability. It doesn’t:

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to alter, reduce or eliminate any civil or criminal liability that a property owner or manager may have for injuries arising on their property.

That’s about as clear as it can be. If Jim decides that he MUST HAVE the last Tickle Me Elmo in the store and kills Bob (who left his gun in the car, in accordance with the sign), Toys R Us will still be sued by Bob’s family for not adequately protecting Bob. In fact, because they forced** Bob to disarm and provided no security, they are likely looking at a settlement that would dwarf anything they would have had otherwise.

*Unless it’s a park, but that’s a whole different back story.
**Yeah, yeah, I know…No one “forced” Bob to shop there. Last weekend I got to the door of Babies R Us and saw the sign, so I just took my business elsewhere. But not everyone is as….committed as I am.

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