This article was originally published at People’s Press Collective - Omaha on October 19, 2010.
Since this is continuing a serious and very important topic, this is going to be another lengthy post. You better go top off that cup of coffee or grab a beer; go ahead, I’ll wait here for you to get back.
Okay? Good. Previously, we discussed some problems with Nebraska’s concealed carry laws in Part 1 of this series. The sort of problems that can inadvertently make criminals out of unknowing, law-abiding citizens. Last time, we wrapped up with me promising to share my ideas on how Nebraska’s concealed carry laws can be improved in regards to signage and me requesting your input and thoughts. A number of commenters made very good points and I intend to further explore those as I present my ideas in this installment.
To begin, let’s reiterate the three problems we previously identified with Nebraska’s Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) program regarding signage:
- There are a wide variety of sign styles and sizes, and the posting of these signs may or may not be “conspicuous” or readily identifiable to the licensed CHP holder who is interested in complying with the law.
- There are properties that post signs at some, but not all entrances, which makes it possible for a licensed CHP holder to unknowingly enter a property where he would be in violation of the law.
- The criminal penalty for entering a private property while legally carrying a concealed firearm is a misdemeanor violation of the law relating to firearms. A conviction of this charge makes an individual no longer eligible for a CHP for a period of 10 years in the state of Nebraska. I’m no lawyer, but I am a thinker, and it seems to me that when compared with other violations of the law relating to firearms that Nebraska has on the books, entering a property while armed when the property owner prohibits concealed firearms is more similar to the crime of criminal trespass than it is to homicide with a firearm, armed robbery, or rape at gunpoint.
Our founders intended for the states to function individually as liberty laboratories having the independence to experiment with laws and legislation. So, in the spirit of learning from the success of others, let’s examine our neighboring states to discover if and how they solved the above three problems we currently face in Nebraska.
First, let’s look at sign size, style, and placement requirements. While I’d like to see a sign requirement like Texas’ 30.06 signs,
I understand that, well, we’re not in Texas. So, let’s look at requirements passed by our more-immediate neighbors. Four of our neighboring states, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Iowa, do not have signage statutes, but Kansas, Missouri, and Minnesota all have explicit sign definitions and requirements.
Colorado Colorado does not have specific signage statutes for prohibiting concealed carry on private property.
South Dakota South Dakota does not have specific signage statutes for prohibiting concealed carry on private property.
Wyoming Wyoming does not have specific signage statutes for prohibiting concealed carry on private property.
Iowa According to a June 32, 2010 FAQ document produced by the Iowa Department of Public Safety, “The topic of firearms restrictions on private property and in the workplace is not addressed in Iowa firearms law.”
Kansas As described in Kansas Administrative Regulations §16-11-7 (a)-(c), signs down in the Sunflower State are required to have:
- A white background, a black handgun graphic, and a red circle with a slash.
- No text can be placed within 1” of the graphic.
- The sign must be a minimum of 8”x8” with the graphic being no smaller than 6”x6”.
- The sign must be posted at eye level of adults entering the property and no more than 12” to the left or the right of the entrance.
- Furthermore, the sign must not be obstructed or altered in any way, and if the sign becomes illegible for any reason, it must be immediately replaced.
Missouri Missouri also has sign requirements, which are outlined in Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 571 Weapons Offenses Section 571.107.1(15). The Show-Me State requires signs prohibiting concealed carry on private property be:
- At least 11”x14” in size, and
- The font on the signs must be at least 1” in size.
Minnesota While Minnesota’s not an adjacent state, they are one of our regional neighbors. Commenter PhilK mentioned in Part 1 of this series, Minnesota Statutes 624.714.17(b)(2)and(3)define prominent and conspicuous for their signs prohibiting concealed carry on private property as:
- The lettering must be in a 1.5” Arial font on a contrasting background
- The total area of the sign must be at least 187 square inches (roughly 13.5”x13.5”)
- The sign must be readily visible within 4’ laterally of the entrance, with the bottom of the sign placed between 4’ and 6’.
As Julian pointed out in the comments of Part 1 of this series, in addition to looking at our three neighbor states with signage statues, we can examine the “recommendations” suggested by the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP). According to Title 272, Chapter 21 Section 018.05 of the Nebraska Administrative Code:
018.05 State law does not mandate a specific requirement for a sign other than that it be conspicuously posted, however, the Nebraska State Patrol strongly suggests that a standardized format be utilized. The standardized form should contain a four (4) inch circle with a slash covering a handgun and text giving notice that carrying a concealed handgun anywhere on the premises is prohibited. A form will be available on the Nebraska State Patrol website which can be downloaded for printing. The Nebraska State Patrol also strongly recommends that a place or premises wishing to prohibit concealed handguns post the sign at normal eye level at each public entrance to the place or premises. Normal eye level is considered to be between 54” and 66” from the floor. (emphasis mine)
In fact, the NSP has an 8.5”x11” color pdf for download for private property owners interested in the patrol’s recommendation. It looks like this:
If that sign looks familiar, it should. In Part 1, a private property owner in downtown Omaha purchased a metal street-like sign that looks just like the NSP’s suggestion:
Furthermore, hsoi (a visiting Texan) took a picture of a similar sign outside the Omaha Zoo during his road trip:
(As an aside, I don’t think I’ll ever understand a “No Concealed Handguns” sign at the zoo. A “No Hunting” sign? Yeah, sure, that I could understand, but why ban licensed concealed carry?)
I believe the NSP’s suggested sign provides licensed CHP holders appropriate warning of the private property owner’s wishes. If the State Patrol’s standardized sign were codified for prohibiting licensed concealed carry on private property, then the requirements would include:
- A minimum sign size of 8.5”x11”.
- A white background, a black handgun graphic, and a 4” red circle with a slash.
- Include the text, ”NOTICE. Carrying a concealed handgun is PROHIBITED in or on this place or premises. Those in control of this property have prohibited permit holders from possessing or carrying a concealed handgun on these premises. Unless otherwise authorized by law, violation of this prohibition is a criminal offense. Posted Pursuant to the Nebraska Revised Statute §69-2441.”
- Bottom of sign must be posted between 54” and 66” from floor.
If we also consider the sign statutes of our neighboring states, I believe it would be prudent to add Kansas’ lateral position requirement that the sign be posted within 12” to the left or the right of the entrance.
Next, let’s take a look at how neighboring states addressed the arbitrary placement of signs prohibiting concealed carry on private property when multiple entrances to the property exist. The four states previously noted (Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Iowa) that do not have signage size/style requirements obviously do not have statutes relating to frequency of sign placements at building entrances. However, the three states with size/style requirements also address frequency of sign placement.
Kansas In Kansas, SB306 Sec 9 (f)(1), signed into law 5/17/2010, requires:
The signs be posted at all exterior entrances to the prohibited buildings;
Minnesota Similarly, Minnesota Statute 624.714.17(b)(1)(i) requires
…has prominently posted a conspicuous sign at every entrance to the establishment containing the following language: “(INDICATE IDENTITY OF OPERATOR) BANS GUNS IN THESE PREMISES.”
…If the building or the premises are open to the public, the employer of the business enterprise shall post signs on or about the premises if carrying a concealed firearm is prohibited…
In addition to looking toward the statutes of our neighboring states, Julian pointed out in the comments to Part 1 of this series that conspicuous is defined in our Nebraska Administrative Code in Title 272, Chapter 21 Section 002.13:
002.13 “Posted conspicuous notice” shall mean a clearly visible sign posted at each public entrance to a place or premises open to the public which shall clearly state that concealed weapons handguns are not allowed in the place or on the premises. A recommended format for the sign can be found in Section 018.05 of these regulations.
Even though that definition makes sense, I would go one step further as suggested by Glock26in the comments to Part 1 and include not just public entrances, but all entrances such as the various ‘non-public’ entrances that are used by authorized personnel such as employee entrances, service entrances, loading docks, and delivery areas.
While conspicuously posted is defined in the Administrative Code, it is not defined in the State law of Section 69-2429 of Nebraska Code. This omission appears to be easy to fix legislatively by revising the Nebraska Code.
Finally, let’s examine the criminal penalty for entering a private property while legally carrying a concealed firearm when on the soil of one of Nebraska’s neighbors.
Colorado As previously discussed, Colorado does not have a specific signage statutes. However, according to Colorado Revised Statutes §18-4-504, if you carry concealed onto a private property and refuse to leave after being asked by the owner, then you are guilty of third degree criminal trespass, a class 1 petty offense.
South Dakota Similarly, South Dakota lacks specific signage statutes and by South Dakota Code §22-35-6, entering and remaining in any building or structure surreptitiously, is considered criminal trespass, a class 1 misdemeanor.
Wyoming Wyoming, also lacking specific signage statutes, outlines in Wyoming Statute §6-3-303that a person is guilty of criminal trespass if he enters or remains on or in the land or premises of another person, knowing he is not authorized to do so, or after being notified to depart or to not trespass. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months, a fine of not more than $750.00, or both.
Iowa Iowa, also lacking specific signage statutes, covers criminal trespass in §716.7.2(a) of the Iowa Code by stating that entering or remaining upon or in the property without justificationafter being notified or requested to abstain from entering or to remove or vacate therefrom can be charged with simple misdemeanor criminal trespass.
Kansas In Kansas, Kansas Statute §75-7c11(b)(1) states, carrying a concealed weapon in violation of any restriction or prohibition, if the premises are posted in accordance with rules and regulations adopted by the attorney general, is a class B misdemeanor.
Missouri Missouri’s statutes are interesting enough that I want to quote the excerpt. Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 571 Weapons Offenses Section 571.107.2
§571.107. 2. Carrying of a concealed firearm in a location specified in subdivisions (1) to (17) of subsection 1 of this section by any individual who holds a concealed carry endorsement issued pursuant to sections 571.101 to 571.121 shall not be a criminal act but may subject the person to denial to the premises or removal from the premises. If such person refuses to leave the premises and a peace officer is summoned, such person may be issued a citation for an amount not to exceed one hundred dollars for the first offense. If a second citation for a similar violation occurs within a six-month period, such person shall be fined an amount not to exceed two hundred dollars and his or her endorsement to carry concealed firearms shall be suspended for a period of one year. If a third citation for a similar violation is issued within one year of the first citation, such person shall be fined an amount not to exceed five hundred dollars and shall have his or her concealed carry endorsement revoked and such person shall not be eligible for a concealed carry endorsement for a period of three years…
Minnesota Minnesota’s statutes are also intriguing enough to quote a lengthier excerpt. According to 2010 Minnesota Statutes §624.714. Subd. 17:
(a) A person carrying a firearm on or about his or her person or clothes under a permit or otherwise who remains at a private establishment knowing that the operator of the establishment or its agent has made a reasonable request that firearms not be brought into the establishment may be ordered to leave the premises. A person who fails to leave when so requested is guilty of a petty misdemeanor. The fine for a first offense must not exceed $25. Notwithstanding section 609.531, a firearm carried in violation of this subdivision is not subject to forfeiture.
Unlike Nebraska, where a licensed CHP holder can be charged for a misdemeanor involving firearms as they enter a private property, all of our neighbor states, with the exception of Kansas, consider the licensed carrying of concealed handguns to be a violation only after the CHP holder refuses to leave after being asked to by the private property owner. To me, this seems to be a reasonable approach for punishing licensed CHP holders who brazenly refuse to respect the wishes of a private property owner.
Furthermore, when considering the criminal charge, none of the neighbors consider the violation a firearms charge prohibiting the person from obtaining a CHP for a ten year period. Missouri takes a common sense approach by fining the violation the first time a permit holder refuses to leave after being asked to, and then subsequent violations incur increasingly larger fines and longer permit suspensions for repeated violations.
So are you still hanging in there with me? If I didn’t put you to sleep, you’ve probably drained the coffee pot or knocked off that six pack by now. If you’re still conscious, let’s review. First we identified the three problems with Nebraska’s concealed carry law sign requirements. Then we compiled the concealed carry laws for neighboring states and examined those to look for successful solutions to the three problems. Finally, following the compilation of adjacent state statutes, we considered what changes to Nebraska law would make sense to fix our three sign problems. Let’s summarize the solutions we constructed for each of the three problems.
- To standardize the size, style, and placement of signs prohibiting concealed carry on private property, the Nebraska Code could be revised to require the equivalent of the State Patrol’s suggested standard sign. This would standardize all prohibitory signs in the State to the same convention requiring:
- A minimum sign size of 8.5”x11”.
- A white background, a black handgun graphic, and a 4” red circle with a slash.
- Include the text, ”NOTICE. Carrying a concealed handgun is PROHIBITED in or on this place or premises. Those in control of this property have prohibited permit holders from possessing or carrying a concealed handgun on these premises. Posted Pursuant to the Nebraska Revised Statute §69-2441.” (notice the text original text “Unless otherwise authorized by law, violation of this prohibition is a criminal offense” has been removed to reflect the suggested solution to Problem #3.)
- Bottom of sign must be posted between 54” and 66” from floor.
Furthermore, I would advocate adding an additional bullet to reflect Kansas’ requirement that the sign be placed within 12” to the left or the right of the entrance.
- To standardize the placement at properties with multiple entrances, the definitions in §69-2429 of the Nebraska Code could be revised to include similar text to Title 272, Chapter 21 Section 002.13 of the Nebraska Administrative Code. I say similar text because the definition should not limit sign postings to only public entrances, but should require postings at every entrance to prevent a licensed CHP holder from unintentionally entering a private property whose owner wishes to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons.
- Finally, the penalty for a licensed CHP holder carrying a concealed handgun onto a private property whose owner prohibits such could be revised to more closely reflect the common sense approach of Nebraska’s neighbors. First, the Nebraska Code could be revised to explicitly classify this infraction as a non-firearms criminal trespass violation. Secondly, the Nebraska Code could be revised to reflect the majority of our neighbors such that the violation occurs not when the licensed CHP holder enters the private property, but when a licensed CHP holder refuses to leave a private property once the owner makes a reasonable request that the CHP holder leaves.
After a bit of research, those are the solutions I’ve come to. What do you think? Do you agree? Do you have other ideas on how Nebraska’s concealed carry law can be revised to solve the three identified signage problems? Whether you agree or disagree, speak up in the comments section of this post and through discussion, we can produce the best solution to revising Nebraska’s concealed carry law.