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Concealed Carry, Repeat

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Text, photograph, and pattern by James Goggin.

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On July 9, 2013, Illinois became the last state in the US to allow carrying firearms in public with the passing of 430 ILCS 66, the Firearm Concealed Carry Act. The new law, which came into effect on January 5, 2014, establishes the concealed carrying of firearms as a new status quo. Any private properties (excluding residences) wishing to prohibit firearms on their premises are required to deliberately opt out by “clearly and conspicuously” posting an Illinois State Police-approved sign at the distinctly unclear and inconspicuous size of 4 × 6 inches (roughly that of a postcard or bumper sticker). A PDF of the official sign is available for download at ccl4illinois.com/ccw/Public/CCWProhibitedAreaSign.pdf.

My first sighting of the sign in the wild was at the entrance of my daughter’s elementary school, on the first day back in the new year. This is the kind of situation where the sign and this new law, combined with all-too-fresh memories of tragedies across America, really hits you. On a recent visit to the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture, the “no firearms” symbol took on more monumental proportions. Even a National Historic Landmark like Mies van der Rohe’s S.R. Crown Hall needs the bluntly slapped-on reminder: no guns, please.

Here are the sign’s design rules as specified by the Illinois State Police: a uniform design with a white background; no text; a depiction of a handgun in black ink with a circle around and diagonal slash across the firearm in red ink; the circle set 4 inches in diameter. When printed, a black frame surrounding the “no firearms” symbol must measure 4 inches from top to bottom and 6 inches from left to right.

What the State Police rules do not specify, however, is how many of these designs one might post clearly and conspicuously. By tiling the sign in state-approved 4 × 6 inch brick-like modules, any desired space could be filled with an infinitely repeating “430 ILCS 66” pattern. Such a pattern might then be used to completely fill a window. It may function as wallpaper. It could even cover an entire façade.

An act of repetition like this is open to interpretation: it provides emphasis, it produces decoration, it constitutes protest. You might argue that the “no firearms” sign, if repeated everywhere, would become monotonous, ultimately risking a transition from conspicuous to inconspicuous. Even invisible. But this kind of inverse firearms-free status quo, where “no firearms” is the default, sounds pretty good to me.

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