When Charles Vaught created the now viral “Guns Are Welcome” sign for his safety supply store in North Carolina, he thought it was a one time thing. Now, he’s stocking up as people from Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania and even Switzerland want to get their hands on the pro-Second Amendment signs.
In a phone interview with TheBlaze, Vaught explained that every couple months or so, the sign goes viral on social media and spurs sales. This is how it has been going since April 2012 when he and his wife posted a photo of Vaught giving the sign a thumbs up on Facebook. It’s that photo that has been recently blowing up on Twitter (see our original story about that here).
“It’s really crazy,” Vaught said. “I never expected this.”
The whole story starts with a suggestion made by his wife. Northeastern Safety Supply, located in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., is a place where law enforcement, EMTs and the general public can get everything from holsters to handcuff keys to apparel and other tools. Given his type of clientele, Vaught said many other non-law enforcement clients were “leery” of entering the store with a firearm. He wanted to welcome them into his establishment armed, but also send a message that said “if you do anything stupid, then I’ll do what I need to do” — but sounding nicer than that.
So the “Guns Are Welcome on the Premises” was created with its caveats: “Please keep all weapons holstered unless need arises. In such case judicious marksmanship appreciated.” Vaught posted a photo of himself giving the sign a thumbs up and sent it to his wife, who gave him the idea in the fist place.
It took off from there on Facebook. Vaught said it received a plethora of comments and was reposted several times. The viral nature of the photo ebbs and flows, and as Vaught put it, it’s picking up steam again now.
How so? Several times during our interview Vaught paused and noted “there goes another one,” referencing that another sign had been sold on eBay. Once during our interview, he politely put us on hold to take a customer call. When he returned, he said it was someone from Texas calling about the sign they’d seen on TheBlaze.
The photo was recently posted on Twitter by @tinastullracing who said it was taken in Texas. Vaught explained this wasn’t the case, but also said it’s not the first time people have assumed the Lone Star state could take credit for such a sign.
“On Facebook the same thing happened,” Vaught said. “Someone said, ‘I believe it’s in Texas.’ I said ‘No, it’s at Northeastern Safety Supply in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, you’re welcome to come see it.'”
Vaught made the signs available for purchase on eBay at a fixed price after their initial bout of popularity — he said he’s sold between 30 to 35 so far. Wanting the sign to be quality made, he opted for metal, which costs $35. After some interested parties balked at the price, Vaught said he began having Coreplast — he calls it “laminated cardboard” — ones made for $19. And for those who want something even cheaper, there’s a 8×8 decal for $8.
When all is said and done, Vaught only makes about $4 on each sign.
So who is Charles Vaught? He was a full-time police officer for nearly 20 years — 11 of which he spent as an investigator. He became a part-time officer in January 2012 so he could focus on his business full time.
“It was a tough choice to leave what I love to do,” Vaught said, continuing that he knew that with the finances he and his partners had invested he would need to try.
The safety supply store was established, he said, because the only other alternative for law enforcement in their area to get supplies was to order them online or to drive close to two hours away.
“[We wanted] a place where cops could get supplies local,” he said.
It was his own experience as an officer that spurred on the sign that has put his store in front of a national audience.
“I’ve seen people get robbed, taken advantage of. […] I wanted to make it clear, you can try that if you want to, but I’m not going to stick my hands up in the air,” he said.
Watch Vaught explain more about his signs in this video posted on YouTube in April 2012: