THE LOOP — A new sign of the times has started popping up all over Chicago — the universal symbol for no guns allowed.
I first noticed the "no guns" sign — a black pistol inside a red circle with a slash through it — while waiting to talk to a history class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
"I guess this is what we've come to," I said to the security guard.
"Yes," she said. "We were just told to put it up now."
They're getting an early start on reminding people that even when Illinois' concealed-carry law permitting licensed gun owners to tote pistols goes into effect, there are certain places they can't pack heat.
There are more than 25 categories of no-gun zones — schools, government buildings, bars, parks, casinos, airports, libraries and zoos, among other places. Each gun-exempt area must have an official Illinois State Police "no guns allowed" sign posted by the time the law goes into effect next year.
And in Chicago, the City Council approved a gun ban for all restaurants that serve liquor.
It's probably safe to say that no-gun signs soon will become as prevalent as no-smoking signs.
Restaurateur Glenn Keefer already caught ire from gun proponents when he put his no-guns-allowed sign up at his namesake River North steakhouse, Keefer's.
Like a lot of Chicago restaurateurs, Keefer worries that guns and booze are a dangerous combination.
As a young man living in New York City, Keefer witnessed two of his friends get shot — one died and the other survived — after a bar fight escalated.
"I've been in the restaurant and bar business for 43 years, and I've seen some very strange things happen when people are drinking," he said. "And I don't think allowing guns around when people are drinking is a good idea."
He'd rather not have the no-gun sign be the first thing dinner guests see when they arrive at Keefer's, where the dining room is decorated with the artwork of renowned Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick.
But it's a compromise he's willing to make.
"We've got beautiful art on the wall and an ugly sign on the door, but unfortunately I don't have much of a choice if I want to keep guns out of here," Keefer said. "I'd rather have that sign so someone from Indiana, where gun laws are very liberal, doesn't think they can just start bringing guns in."
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, on his blog WalshFreedom.com, called on people to boycott what he said was Keefer's “attack on our Second Amendment rights” until the sign is taken down and the anti-gun policy is changed.
The ironic thing about the sign is that now Keefer worries posting it might make him a target.
"I run the risk of letting the public know we're unarmed and worrying about becoming a target. But I'd rather take the chance with police defending me than having a shootout with any number of people carrying weapons.”
So, the sign stays, he says, to keep up with changing times.