Drive into tiny Conoy Township, Pa., and you'll see the standard "welcome" sign, but it also comes with a warning: "THIS IS NOT A GUN FREE ZONE."
The signs are meant to alert criminals to the fact that many people in the rural Pennsylvania town of 3,000 are armed. A dozen have been installed so far and three more are slated to go up, which would cover every major road into the town. Officials hope the signs give would-be criminals second thoughts before causing trouble.
"What we’re telling people is that when they do come here, they should feel safer knowing that everyone in the township is watching out for them."
- Stephen Mohr, township supervisor, Conoy, Pa.
“I think even those who have bad intentions can read,” Stephen Mohr, one of the township supervisors, told FoxNews.com. He said the town’s five supervisors unanimously decided to put the signs up.
Mohr noted that the intent of the signs is to welcome good people to their town.
“The first word on there is “Welcome”… we have a lot here that we take pride in. What we’re telling people is that when they do come here, they should feel safer knowing that everyone in the township is watching out for them,” Mohr said. “And the criminal -- he should realize that going into this township he could have a bad day.”
But critics say the signs are unnecessary, and unlikely to send the message Mohr claims to be imparting.
“These signs are silly, because the Second Amendment guarantees the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens anywhere to own guns in their homes," said Jonathan Hutson, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "As a matter of fact, no jurisdiction in America completely prohibits the carrying of guns in public.”
And despite the announcement that the townsfolk may be armed, there are still places within where guns are prohibited, noted Shira Goodman, executive director of Cease Fire PA.
"Are there no schools in this town?" Goodman asked. "How about U.S. post offices? What about private business owners or houses of worship who choose to bar firearms from their property?
“The intent seems to be to scare those who might consider criminal activity," Goodman added. "The likely effect will be to embolden a shoot first, Wild West mentality."
Mohr said residents are free to have to their own rules about guns, and the township follows federal and state policies regarding guns in post offices and schools. The signs, he said, refer to the fact that the township government welcomes the carrying of guns in the belief it promotes safety. A member of the National Rifle Association, he also seems to be sending a message of his support for the Second Amendment.
“Those people that need to wake up and realize that the right to carry a gun in a lot of areas have already been curtailed,” he said, noting that other jurisdictions, including New York City, put the onus on residents to show a “special need” in order to carry guns.
Economists who study crime said it will be interesting to see whether crime in the town is affected by the signs.
“My guess is that this may… lead a small number of people to reconsider committing criminal acts, but the signs are unlikely to provide so much new information [about the town] that they result in a large reduction in crime,” David Mustard, an economics professor at the University of Georgia, told FoxNews.com.
Residents of the town reached by FoxNews.com had mixed views.
“I guess it’s a good idea. But it’s going to take more than just a sign -- I don’t think that would deter a hardened criminal,” Lyle Rider, who runs BMA Cycles in the township, told FoxNews.com.
“It doesn’t bother me… whether it’ll be a crime deterrent or not, I don’t know,” Mark Brosey, who works at Brosey’s Garage in the township, told FoxNews.com.
At least one other U.S. town is considering copying Conoy's idea.
“If you were a thief breaking into homes and businesses, would you choose a city that openly endorses the ownership and training of guns to protect persons and property?” Greenleaf, Idaho, Mayor Brad Holton told FoxNews.com. His town will consider posting such signs at a city council meeting in March.