Monday, March 01, 2010

Gun Enthusiasts and Private Property Violations

For some gun enthusiasts, it doesn't matter if I, as a private individual, prohibit the carrying of weapons on my property. For these gun enthusiasts, it doesn't matter if a private business owner prohibits the carrying of weapons on the premises of his business. It doesn't matter because these folks think the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms trumps all other rights.

What I find ironic about the actions of such people is that they are some of the loudest and most vociferous defenders of individual private property rights. And yet they have absolutely no qualms about challenging, if not trampling upon, the private property rights of gun control people like me. And it is precisely because there are people like these gun enthusiasts, for whom the right to bear arms is used as a means to target and intimidate individual private property owners and businessmen who oppose and prohibit the carrying of weapons on their property, that the push for more gun control is made.

It's like these gun nuts use their weapons as political agitprop much more so than as a means for self-defense. To me, that's scary, because it implies that weapons and their use are bigger than self-defense for these folks. And when people who carry weapons believe that, it's a recipe for disaster.

I wonder what responsible gun owners think about politicizing the 2nd Amendment in such ways that challenge private property rights.

12 comments:

eric said...

I doubt you'll find many gun rights people who'd say their right to bear arms supercedes your right to allow them to do so on your personal private property.

Businesses are a bit of a special case, legally speaking, because they are treated as a hybrid of public and private property. I can walk around my house naked if I want, and invite other adults to come inside without being obligated to clothe myself... but if I did that at my place of business I would quickly find myself charged with public indecency. Likewise, you generally can't get charged with "public drunk" for making a drunk ass out of yourself at home, but if you trot down to Wal-Mart and make a drunken nuisance of yourself, you'll quickly be thrown in the hoosegow.

I don't say this as a justification for people carrying guns against the wishes of business owners, but only as an example of where their arguments come from. I'm all for giving business property the same protections as purely private property, but until that happens you will have to deal with people making the argument that they have a right to arm themselves in public, and business property is somewhat public.

Personally, even outside the confines of the law, I think people have an ethical obligation to follow the rules of the individuals or organizations who own the property they want to conduct business on. They have every right to petition Starbucks to change their rules about carrying weapons on their premise (I think they should allow people to do so), but if Starbucks doesn't want you to do so, go get your coffee at Dunkin Donuts. I'm sure they don't mind.

Huck said...

I don't say this as a justification for people carrying guns against the wishes of business owners, but only as an example of where their arguments come from.

I hear you, Eric; but what gets me is that these gun folks who would make such an argument about the hybrid public/private nature of businesses are, I would bet, the same folks who would scream to high heaven about the injustice of forcing restaurants or bars to ban smoking under the same argument. And in the case of toting guns, we're not even talking about protesting the injustice of government bans levied on private businesses, but consciously violating a business's own choice to ban guns from their premises. The day that these folks agree to accept that the public/private hybrid nature of businesses justifies the imposition of regulations on such spaces in the name of the public good is the day that I will agree that these folks have a legitimate right to push their gun agenda in such public/private hybrid spaces.

eric said...

"the same folks... would scream to high heaven about the injustice of forcing restaurants or bars to ban smoking under the same argument."

Very fair point. Yes, they would. It is a controversial issue even among gun rights advocates, though in my experience (mostly gained through concealed carry and gun rights internet forums), the faction you describe here is in the minority, though they are a loud minority. Most gun rights advocates I have dealt with would be fairly mortified by a group of people deciding to make a political statement by walking around in a large group armed to the teeth for all to see. In fact, if you'll check such forums you will find almost universal condemnation of people who openly carry (and often even people who concealed carry) at political events such as the Tea Parties.

Like I said, I agree with you that it is an unethical practice to carry weapons on private property where the owner of said property does not want you to do so. Likewise, most gun friendly states have laws that give you permission to leave a loaded weapon in a locked vehicle on private property, even against the owner's wishes (though you would be obligated to remove the vehicle from their property if asked... what the law says is that if they don't want you to carry a weapon on your person on their property, leaving it locked in your vehicle is allowable, and you are not obligated to tell them it is there). And these laws often don't discrimnate between business and fully private property. I find ethical fault with that law as well.

"The day that these folks agree to accept that the public/private hybrid nature of businesses justifies the imposition of regulations on such spaces in the name of the public good is the day that I will agree that these folks have a legitimate right to push their gun agenda in such public/private hybrid spaces."

Sounds like a formula for political gridlock to me! Honestly tough, I think in most states, the law is pretty clear that a business has the right to demand you not bring a gun onto their premise, and citizens are obligated to comply with those wishes.

Huck said...

Eric - I wish more vocal 2nd Amendment folks were like you. I know that most are like you. In fact, I come from a family of avid hunters and gun enthusiasts. And I have, myself, been a gun owner and hunter in the past (though I don't own a gun now and don't hunt anymore). Although I am a committed gun control advocate, I do not wish to strip away the 2nd Amendment. But what makes me push more and more towards greater and greater gun control are the folks like the ones in this news story who flaunt their weapons solely as a means to make a political point -- and I'd say to intimidate, too.

Frankly, I'm not averse to the hybrid public/private classification of businesses that you outlined above. In fact, I actually agree with that idea. As such, I have to be willing to allow that such private spaces can occupy a place in the debate over protecting constitutional rights versus ensuring the public good - especially when the two are in conflict.

I believe that if responsible gun enthusiasts would just understand that the 2nd Amendment has its limitations and can be subject to reasonable proscriptions and regulations in order to protect people, then gun control folks would be content to let gun enthusiasts do just about anything they want with their guns in environments where others won't feel threatened or intimidated by them.

eric said...

"I believe that if responsible gun enthusiasts would just understand that the 2nd Amendment has its limitations and can be subject to reasonable proscriptions and regulations in order to protect people, then gun control folks would be content to let gun enthusiasts do just about anything they want with their guns in environments where others won't feel threatened or intimidated by them."

The problem is that gun rights advocates and gun control folks very seldom agree as to what is reasonable. Quite a few gun rights people support allowing licensed carry in any public space including schools, prisons, and coutrooms, or the Oval Office... while quite a few gun control advocates feel threatened and intimidated by an unloaded BB gun locked in a fireproof safe with a 2-hour time delay lock 200 miles away from their place of residence.

However, I do think there is a lot of room for common ground when it comes to framing the issue around property rights, as we can all generally agree it is of utmost importance to uphold one's right to control what happens on your own property. I would prefer that businesses be treated exactly the same as private property, but even as a hybrid public/private entity I can agree that the property rights of the person or organization who paid for the ground you're standing on should be respected.

eric said...

"But what makes me push more and more towards greater and greater gun control are the folks like the ones in this news story who flaunt their weapons solely as a means to make a political point -- and I'd say to intimidate, too."

Also, I'd say that even though I disagree with using the presence of a gun to make a politcal statement or to intimidate, I don't think these are the people you need to be worried about when it comes to guns. These people are just testing the bounds of the 2nd Amendment. The ones who pose a real threat tend tot be the ones who could care less about the 2nd Amendment, and they will remain a threat no matter what kind of gun control laws you pass.

andrew said...

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this article.

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/the-freedom-to-be-an-adult/2/

Be warned, the commentariat and origin of the article may not be your cup of tea.

Guav said...

Let me begin by saying that I am not a proponent of open carry, nor an open carry activist. And I think that forcing the issue in people's faces as a way of "normalizing" open carry is likely t backfire.

That being said, where in the article does it describe anything like the premise of your post? It doesn't say anything about gun owners or open carry activists not respecting private property rights, or taking guns into businesses that prohibit them.

It does mention one incident where open carry activists met at a restaurant, the restaurant made it clear that they weren't welcome there, so they left.

As far as Starbucks and the other places they've been carrying their weapons, they do not prohibit firearms, so they are not challenging private property rights.

Huck said...

Guav - Notice in my posting I said that these folks have no qualms about challenging, if not trampling upon individual private property rights. I stand by that belief. Let me ask you whether the gun owners took it upon themselves to inquire about the policy of Starbucks (or any other business they target) on the issue of open carry? Well, we don't exactly know, but I think it's safe to assume that they didn't inquire, and didn't care to. The purpose of this organization is to test the boundaries of private property rights of businesses like Starbucks when it comes to the 2nd Amendment. These folks may leave when asked to by a business owner, but they show a lack of respect for the rights of the owner when they fail to inquire ahead of time. I think of it like this: someone who wants to test the boundaries of a store's "no smoking" policy goes into that store and proceeds to light up. When told that smoking is prohibited, they either leave with their lit cigarette in hand for all to see, possibly making a scene as they do so, or they put out the cigarette. Either way, they didn't follow a course of action that any person without an agenda would have taken -- which is to ask the business if they could smoke before lighting up.

Let me ask you another question: why do you think these people advertise their antics before engaging in them? Aren't they attempting to provoke some kind of reaction that would allow them to push their rights to carry guns on private property such as businesses like coffee shops and restaurants? Isn't that the point of what they are doing? If so, I don't see how that is not challenging of private property rights. They may leave when told, but that doesn't mean the challenge wasn't made.

Huck said...

andrew - I just read that article you linked to. It's interesting, but I should tell you I don't drink tea. I'm more a coffee person, and I leave the tea parties to others. Suffice it to say that I've thought about this very thing before, and I find that what this guy's notion of "adult" freedom is about as condescending and myopic as is his depiction of that liberal notion of "child" freedom. Let me explain it simply like this: we have government because we are freer with it -- including the restrictions, limitations, and protections it affords us. This notion is not new and goes at least as far as Thomas Hobbes in modern political theory, if not farther back to the Socratic idea of the philosopher king. Adults are only as free as the structure of their existential condition allows -- and all of us are subject to structures not of our own making that bind us, limit us, and oppress us. And, like it or not, sometimes it is only government that can free us and protect us from such oppressive structures.

eric said...

"folks may leave when asked to by a business owner, but they show a lack of respect for the rights of the owner when they fail to inquire ahead of time."

Here I disagree. If business owners don't want people carrying on their property, they have an obligation to post a notice in a highly visibloe place that says as much.

Guav said...

" I said that these folks have no qualms about challenging, if not trampling upon individual private property rights."

And what, may I ask, has led you to believe that they have no qualms about trampling upon individual private property rights? Where have they done that? As far as I can tell, you're assigning actions and beliefs to them that they have not exhibited.

You also said that, to these gun owners, "it doesn't matter if I, as a private individual, prohibit the carrying of weapons on my property," but I've seen no evidence of that—it does matter to them.

"Let me ask you whether the gun owners took it upon themselves to inquire about the policy of Starbucks on the issue of open carry? Well, we don't exactly know, but ..."

As soon as you say "we don't know"—and I don't either—then the rest is just speculation, and not very useful.

"These folks may leave when asked to by a business owner, but they show a lack of respect for the rights of the owner when they fail to inquire ahead of time. "

I don't agree. If that state allows the carrying of firearms, then it's the responsibility of the business to post their policy on firearms if they have a strong opinion about it. Most businesses, I'm guessing, don't—they are probably fine with allowing customers to carry if they're not breaking any laws by doing so.

"I think of it like this: someone who wants to test the boundaries of a store's "no smoking" policy goes into that store and proceeds to light up. "

That's not challenging or testing, that's ignoring. If the store has a "no smoking" policy, then the boundary is already quite clear.

"Why do you think these people advertise their antics before engaging in them? Aren't they attempting to provoke some kind of reaction that would allow them to push their rights to carry guns on private property such as businesses like coffee shops and restaurants? "

I don't think it has anything to do with private property or property rights or businesses at all—I think they are trying to make their point that "WE'RE ALLOWED TO DO THIS, THIS IS LEGAL" as a somewhat clumsy attempt at normalizing firearms. Like I said, I don't think it's a particularly good idea.

In some places—such as California—the point of these open carry activities has been to highlight the fact that concealed carry is illegal, or prohibitively difficult to get a permit for, yet open carry is legal. It's to the effect of "We feel we have a right to carry a firearm for self defense—we'd prefer to carry concealed, but if you don't let us, we'll just carry open." That's a challenge, certainly but against state legislation. Most gun owners don't really have any desire to carry open at all.

"If so, I don't see how that is not challenging of private property rights."

It's not at all. Even if I agreed with you about their motivation, what they would be doing is not challenging a businesses private property rights in the slightest bit—because nobody on either side disagrees with the fact that businesses and individuals have those rights—but challenging a businesses policies—or rather, forcing them to make one as a way of furthering their agenda. It's what the gun control groups are doing now with their Starbucks campaign—trying to get them to pick a side—if they ban guns on the premesis, that's a "win" for gun control, if they refuse to ban guns, it's a "win" for the gun activists.

No rights are being ignored or challenged by the open carry activists.