Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Privacy, Cars, and Guns

From Arms and the Law I see that a Federal judge has struck down an Oklahoma law that ruled companies could prevent employees keeping a gun in their cars if parked on a company lot.

I admit to some mixed feelings about this, as did some of you who commented on the post. Private property should not be subject to arbitrary government rules. I didn't like the state of Massachusetts saying that I had to have a gun license to keep my own gun in my own house. Believe me, that law and virtually all of Massachusetts’s gun tyrannies sucked. The more I have thought about this, though, the more I have to come down on the side of Oklahoma's legislature.

Here's some history. A few years back large employers like Weyerhauser and ConocoPhillips decided they wanted to prevent gun violence in the workplace. They knew that some employees had carry permits and others brought guns to work in their cars during hunting season. They used obscure parts of employee handbooks to order surprise inspections of cars belonging to randomly selected workers. If you refused a search, you were fired. If they found a gun in your car, you were fired. It affected a number of employees regardless of how well they performed or how long they had worked for the companies.

Oklahoma lawmakers thought this was unfair and that it violated the Second Amendment. They passed a law to stop this practice, the same law that has been struck down. Of course, the state could appeal, so the story is not over yet.

As I said, I've thought about this and I must come down on the side of being able to keep a gun in your own car even if it is parked in a private lot. Especially so the lots of huge private bureaucracies employing thousands of people and that may be the only employer of note in a city. There's no comparison between a huge company and a homeowner.

My car is an extension of my home. If I visit a gun-fearing friend and I'm carrying a gun, I will respect his wishes and lock my gun up in my car even if it is parked on his driveway. While he owns the driveway, I expect to be able to store my gun during the visit. If I visit a small store that has a no guns allowed sign, I also expect to store my gun in the car parked in that store's parking lot (ignoring the fact that I probably wouldn't shop there in the first place).

If we allow anyone to state that you can't have a gun in your own car while it is parked in their lot or driveway, we make our self-defense and gun rights meaningless. You won't be able to run a few errands while carrying a gun. You won't be able to stop at a store and buy supplies on your way to a hunting spot. You won't be able to store your gun in your car while you're at work and then holster it after work.

If enough businesses promulgate such rules it will become impossible to carry a gun for self-defense no matter how many permits you have from state governments. My property rights do not end when I park my car in someone's lot. My Second Amendment rights do not end just because a private party wishes them gone. My right to self-defense does not end because some private nanny wants me to be defenseless.

I will cede this though, I think a company, store, or person does control what happens inside their buildings. Carrying a gun when they wish you to refrain does violate private rights. Storing a gun in your own car even in their lot is not the same thing.

I hope that this decision is reversed.

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