Friday, March 30, 2007

Of Cars and Guns and Parking Lots*

(*Apologies to Lewis Carroll)

There’s a gun issue that I haven’t discussed yet. Some businesses are banning guns on their premises even if the guns are locked up in the cars of their employees. In cases such as Weyerhauser in Oklahoma, people have lost their jobs when their employers discovered guns in their cars.

I’ve been of two minds about the issue, but when the New York Times editorializes about it, I guess it’s time to make up my mind.

My earlier ambivalence stems from multiple issues of property rights, gun rights, employee vs. employer rights, and my little-l libertarian distaste for government regulations. On one hand, an employer has a right to impose certain rules on their property and on their employees. If an employee doesn’t like it, find a new job. On the other hand, there are certain rights that should never be infringed and in some communities getting a new job isn’t that easy.

Then I read the New York Times editorial and the scales fell from my eyes. Here are samples: “…common-sense right to workplace safety…” and a quote from one of the ubiquitous scary studies “Workplaces that tolerate guns are five to seven times more likely to suffer homicides than job sites that ban firearms….”

Then there’s hyperbole designed to put gun-owners in the worst possible light, “The notion that self-defense mandates keeping guns in office drawers or out in parking-lot glove compartments is a dangerous fantasy.” Besides, what is a “parking-lot glove compartment?”

Here’s what I believe after a good think. An employer can tell you that you cannot bring a gun inside their buildings that are under their control. A parking lot is another issue entirely.

The employer allows the employee to park their private property (a car) in a lot. My car is mine to do with as I please. An employer can tell me I can’t put a statue of the Virgin Mary or the Horned God in my cubicle, but they can’t order it out of my car (yet). They shouldn’t be able to tell you what else you may have in your private property particularly if it is hidden from public view.

The corporate world can infringe on our rights as surely as government. They can’t jail us, but they can fire us for breaking any of a myriad of rules. An employer shouldn’t be able to prevent me from exercising my right keep and bear arms and defend myself away from home.

Obviously gun banners aren’t winning in legislatures and even courts. They could win by making concealed carry and gun ownership almost impossible. What if businesses posted their public parking lots with no gun signs, just like it’s illegal to have a gun in a Post Office’s parking lot? If that happens, your right to carry a self-defense tool just became impossible to exercise legally.

They could make it so that you carrying a gun on your person or in a car would be so inconvenient to do legally that most of us will either ignore the law or stop bearing arms. If gun banners convince businesses that they are only protecting their employees and customers with “common sense” controls as well as limiting liability you’ll see more of this. What’s the difference it government or corporations are our nannies?

In an ideal world, government shouldn’t have to regulate businesses, but this is a case when they need to step in before we lose our gun rights because of the actions of private business. What a world.

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