Concealed carry. Two words that have had a profound effect on Illinois and the Champaign-Urbana area, literally starting this year off with a bang. Illinois is in fact the last state to implement such a law, now making it legal to carry a concealed handgun; handgun as defined by the Firearm Concealed Carry Act itself. As you may or may not have noticed, this sign (pictured above) has been making quite the appearance as of late. At the beginning of 2014, legislation has been passed by the state now allowing concealed firearms in public areas (with some notable exceptions) as the ban on them was ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Circuit Court in 2012. Along with these public areas where concealed carry is not allowed, private areas can choose to not allow it as long as they have the sign above displayed.
All around the Champaign-Urbana area, several businesses, restaurants, the MTD buses, schools, University of Illinois campus buildings, and other establishments have made it a point to put up the sign, effectively disallowing concealed firearms in their respective venues. Although this issue is new and controversial it seems as though many are unaware of it or confused by what the sign represents. I’ll even admit — the first time I saw it, after the law passed, I marveled at the sign pondering its actual meaning. There’s no denying I was confused as well, only after learning a little bit about it in a class and looking into it I discovered truly what was going on. I felt as though I could not be the only one that had no clue about the meaning behind this new sign. To see what extent this unawareness of such a major issue stretched, I decided to poll 40 random people that reside in the Champaign-Urbana area to see what they had to say and what they knew about the issue. Some of the results were surprising while others fell just about where expected.
My first question was simple: Around campus, on the MTD, and the Champaign-Urbana area, have you noticed a new sign that displays a gun? 30 people (75%) answered yes while 10 people (25%) answered no. What this says is that the sign is prominent and relatively noticeable if three in every four people have seen it and remembered it. This was not surprising as the sign is pretty large and the silhouette of a gun does tend to stick out. However, the sign itself may not be exactly clear as to what it is meant to portray.
To determine the validity of such a claim, my follow-up question to this was: Do you know what these signs stand for? 24 people (60%) said yes whereas 16 people (40%) said no. Thus proving that no matter how noticeable the sign was, the message wasn’t exactly clear. The sign is simple in that it shows the silhouette of a handgun inside a red circle that is commonly used as “no” in most public signs with the article number in the corner. Yet the meaning has been misconstrued due to a lack of clarity. Perhaps some wording underneath could make the message clearer as it could also add some specificity. Then people would know which law the sign is referring to, assuming they know about the law in the first place, which led to my next question.
My final question was as follows: Were you aware that a new Concealed Carry Law has taken place in Illinois? 27 people (67.5%) answered yes and 13 people (32.5%) answered no. Apparently more people know about the law itself than what the sign enforcing it means. This last discovery means that the sign is not as effective as it needs to be. The message is not properly conveyed as a significant amount of people that are knowledgable about the law don’t know what the sign enforcing it looks like. Thus, the awareness of the law may not be the primary issue but the design of the placard.
Since the Firearm Concealed Carry Act is a new law that has been recently implemented, there will be bumps in the road to its universal acceptance. Not only will this take time but it will also require a better visual strategy. The establishments that wish to ban concealed handguns will need an improved sign that lets their patrons know exactly what it is they’re banning. Only then will it be clear to the public at-large.
Photo Credit: Prudhvi Kotapatti