The signs appeared at the White House around the time of a winter storm that closed down much of the federal government for three days last month: “WARNING: Weapons Prohibited.”
Posted right outside guard shacks with metal detectors, the signs threaten fines and prison time for something that most White House visitors probably consider common sense: Don’t bring a gun into the White House.
So why the signs?
“The signs were put up literally because we have to by law,” said David Iacovetti, the deputy assistant director of public affairs for the U.S. Secret Service. “The only way we can search somebody and have those charges stick is have the sign posted.”
That law is the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.
Neither the Secret Service nor the Justice Department could explain why it took 28 years to install the signs. But they said the lack of signage hasn’t impacted their ability to arrest and convict people threatening the White House complex.
Under Section 930 of the federal criminal code, it’s a federal Class A misdemeanor to bring a firearm or dangerous weapon into a federal facility, punishable by up to a year in prison. If you intend to commit a crime with that weapon, it becomes a Class E felony, with up to five years in prison.
But there’s a catch. The same law requires that notice of the penalties “be posted conspicuously at each public entrance to each federal facility.” Without the notice, a person can’t be convicted.
Iacovetti said the Secret Service installed the signs last month on the advice of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which prosecutes federal crimes in the nation’s capital.
SOURCE: Gregory Korte