The Tennessee legislature is working on a bill (Senate Bill 3002/House Bill 3560) to prevent businesses and employers from banning lawfully possessed firearms in the cars parked in their parking lot(s). According to a story on timesnews.net: “[Governor] Haslam told reporters Wednesday that he’s trying to work out a compromise between gun rights supporters and business groups. ‘A lot of government is like that, it’s about getting the balance right,’ he said after a speech to the Tennessee Hospital Association. ‘This is one of those cases where you have property interests versus gun rights interests — both of which people in my party take very, very seriously.'” He ain’t lyin’ . . .

I have seen this same arguments in numerous other states where similar bills have been debated or passed, and it has pissed me off no end each time. But there are two aspects that really get under my skin. First is the notion that there is some sort of trade-off (or “balance” as Gov. Haslam says) between gun owners and property owners rights.

As some of my readers may already know, I am a very strong supporter of the natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right (subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility) to own and carry the weapon of your choice.[1] I have equally strong opinions about property rights  which is why this red herring, either-or argument is so frustrating.

If I own a business (or the bank owns it and I just run it for them) it should be my business to run or ruin as I see fit. If I am stupid enough to prohibit firearms on the premises then I expect my employees and customers to abide by that policy. In return, however, I respect their right to do as they see fit with their property. I won’t try to tell them what color they must paint their house or how they may furnish it.

Likewise I won’t try to tell them what kind of car they must drive or what they may keep inside their car. As long as it is secured in the vehicle and out of sight (as required by the TN law) they can have Bibles or Baby Eagles, Korans or Kel-Tecs, swastikas or Sigs, Penthouses or Para-Ordnances – I don’t get to have a say in the matter.

The next bleat usually heard about guns in parking lots is usually something along the lines of but what about liability? The Tennessee law, however, explicitly states:

No business entity, or owner, manager, or legal possessor of real property, or public or private employer shall be held liable in any civil action for damages, injuries, or death resulting from or arising out of another person’s actions involving a firearm or ammunition transported or stored pursuant to subsection (b)

Several other states have similar language limiting liability. In fact under Wisconsin’s new concealed carry law, employers that allow permit holders to carry at work are immune from liability in lawsuits arising from their policy. Amusingly enough, there is a ringing silence on the matter of liability for employers who prohibit lawful carry.

So that’s my first objection to the false dichotomy of property vs. gun rights. My second objection is to the utter hypocrisy of the vast majority of the property-rights-are-sacred bleaters. Mother Jones writer Emily Loftis provides a near perfect example. In her article Every Day’s Take Your Gun To Work Day In Indiana she states:

Despite the Hoosier affinity for small government in matters of property rights and business regulation, Parking Lot 2.0 would allow employees or job applicants to file a civil action case against business owners who demand to know what weapons are being stored on their property.

State Senator Tim Lanane sounded frustrated when I called him up. He clarified that he’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but believes this bill goes too far. “This crosses over Second Amendment rights and intrudes into private property owners’ rights, a business owner’s rights.”

Then we look at her bio which states in part:

Emily Loftis …  earned an MA in Journalism at Indiana University while covering state health care, the auto industry, and minority issues for southern and central Indiana’s National Public Radio station.

We can assume that her work on minority issues for NPR did not include support for segregated lunch counters or businesses sporting “No Negroes” signs, yet when it comes to a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and enumerated Constitutional right, all of a sudden the rights of businessmen and property owners are paramount? Puh-leeze.

If you’re going to wrap yourself in the mantle of sacred property and business rights, don’t stop with guns in parking lots, have the integrity to advocate for a repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 too, okay?

44 Responses to Gun Rights v. Property Rights: Here We Go Again

  1. This argument is bunk.

    My right to life doesn’t end in the company parking lot.Said business cannot discriminate on my gender or skin color either under pain of the law.Try telling me the CEO can search my person without my consent and quite a few lawyers will be getting paid.My 1911 has a right to be present just like I do,and the only way the 2nd Amendment will be treated like the civil right is is will be if we avoid bargaining as if gun possession is on par with legalizing drugs.

  2. If my employer wants to bar my possession of a weapon in my car that is locked up and out of sight, then said employer needs to be expressly responsible for my safety to and from work and everywhere in between. Just like the CEO and top execs, I want an armed driver (usually an ex-FBI agent). Problem solved. Otherwise, piss off. Once you dictate what is in my car, you have crossed the line and maybe we will start accepting bans on certain foods, religious objects, personal lifestyle choices, you name it.

    • Bingo, require them to be liable for your safety if they do ban weapons. The tort courts are nasty to deal with and that should dissuade most businesses unless they really do provide excellent security.

      • Nobody is making you enter the private property of another person. If that person owns the property, they get to make the rules. You enter under their conditions. If you don’t like your job conditions, go get another you like. I did.

    • The day that you or the NRA pay my property taxes is the same day that I allow you to make the rules for me. I generally don’t have a problem with people bringing guns on my property provided that I trust that they can make sound judgements concerning it’s use.

  3. The right to self-defense does not end at the property line of an employer or other property owner. The right to self-defense is a human right. Property rights, not so much.

  4. I support YOUR rights to maintain your rules within the boundaries of YOUR property. Your house, your rules. But my personal automobile is MY property even though it might be temporarily located on YOUR property. My vehicle remains MY property. Therefore, don’t tell me what legally possessed items I can keep within the boundaries of MY property. I don’t see this as a 2nd Amendment vs property owner’s rights at all.

    • But cant you say exactly the same thing about your person? My pockets are my property even if they are temporarily located on your property. Why should you be able to dictate what is in my pockets but not in my trunk?

    • What this law boils down to is not what you are worried about Dogman. Your right and your car are yours. It is your property and you have the right to it.

      The argument is that the owners of the parking lots don’t want you on it of you have a gun. They aren’t violating any of your property rights by that denial as you are free to take your car and business elsewhere.

      The law would, in a way, make it illegal to do this in some circumstances.

      ######################################

      Similar to this example…You have first amendment rights that apply to you. While on this forum you still have these rights, but the owner of the forum can tell you to take a hike if he doesn’t like them for some reason. The forum owner should have this right as it is his property.

      Now imagine that there was a law in place that said that he couldn’t kick people off if they met a certain criteria or qualifier.

      That is the argument that property owners are making.

      ######################

      FYI – I am in TN and I fully support the passing of this law.

  5. Agree with Dogman. My vehicle is private property no matter where it is legally located. (If I place my vehicle on property that warns of search for any reason, for example on a secure military installation, I voluntarily accept that fact.) I see no conflict between property rights and gun rights at all. In other words what is in my vehicle and out of site (or not), is no damn business of the employer or any one else.

  6. I think the right to self-defense is better described as a law and a duty of personal responsibility for ourselves and other innocent people we are given naturally at birth.

  7. “If I own a business (or the bank owns it and I just run it for them) it should be my business to run or ruin as I see fit. If I am stupid enough to prohibit firearms on the premises then I expect my employees and customers to abide by that policy. In return, however, I respect their right to do as they see fit with their property”

    Not that i necessisarily disagree, but you arent really making an argument here, you are simply stating that property rights trump 2A rights. Again, not that i disagree, but i think if you are going to make the case that you are making, you should back it up with more than just your say so.

  8. The problem with all this is what classifies the property inside a car sitting on property? Do the tires insulate it from another property? What if it is unlocked or in the open bed of a truck?
    I’m a supporter of not just parking lot storage but legal carry by permit holders who have certified they are law abiding citizens. I think guns are viewed as the one and only danger in a workplace, which is not true.
    On a side note I consider a permit system for carry acceptable only in as much as it separates good guys from bad guys possessing weapons on the street. The training requirements are OK as long as they are not overly burdensome, and that takes some negotiation to say the least.

  9. Here’s a question: Just how many gun-related incidents have there been involving employees who carry legally and are allowed to keep firearms locked in their cars when on company property?

  10. Property rights trump.
    What is in my car is my business. My car is where I leave my gun when I enter somebody else’s business.

    The civil rights comparison is for crap. As a society we decided to not allow discrimination based on race, religion etc. I support that 100%.

    Race, religion, sex etc. cannot simply be left at the door, a gun can. A property owner for what ever reason (need not be logical) has every right to make policies, rules etc. on firearms, weapons, attire, cleanliness.

    I don’t shop at stores with gun buster signs. Not so easy to simply switch employers, so be it.

    Employers, shop owner are not responsible for your safety, beyond that which they have control of. I have yet met one which could predict, control nut cases which infest the population. Leave the gun behind at your own risk.

  11. Private property rights are just as important and individual rights. You sign a contract with your employer to abide by his(her) rules, you live by those rules.

    And who reads Penthouse anymore?

    • I didn’t realize people “read” Penthouse in the first place. The few people that I know of that had one didn’t do much reading of it.

  12. Don’t leave your cars unlocked even if you sign a “right to search vehicles” clause at your employer.

    If the car is unlocked (or windows down) they can open the door and search at will.

    If the car is locked they simply cannot break into it to execute a search under the agreement. Having an agreement does not allow them to do this.

    • In TN (where this bill is potentially going to be enacted) your employee can fire you if your breath smells bad…if they so choose.

      At will employment is a double edge sword that I can live with.

  13. I agree that the argument of Constitutional right versus property right is a red herring.

    I support the law whole-heartedly, not on a Constitutional basis, but on the grounds that employers precluding secure carry in cars jeopardizes the welfare and safety of employees when they leave the premises. I see it more as a prevention against employees being forced to a higher level of risk, in the same way that other laws are intended to protect workers’ safety. Not allowing employees to secure legal guns in cars is like not allowing motorcycle-riding employees to bring helmets to work.

    However, trying to apply the Bill of Rights to private entities is a very dangerous business, was never intended by the Founding Fathers, and is a practice that could very quickly lead to a new, higher level of governmental intrusion that I will never support.

    • It doesn’t matter that “employers precluding secure carry in cars jeopardizes the welfare and safety of employees when they leave the premises.” It is the employers right to be stupid and jeopardize the welfare and safety of employees. The employees right is to accept the terms of employment (including the level of safety and gun rights granted on the employers property) or not to accept. If you don’t like the terms of employment – change employment. You can’t dictate rights to another on their property.

  14. This is simple. You make the choice as to which “rights” trump. When you become an employee you agree to give up certain rights (e.g., the right to free speech at the workplace) in exchange for a job and monetary recompense. You make the choice. If you are working at a self-defense (gun) hating institution that bars you from carrying (or keeping your preferred self-defense weapon in your car on their property) then you are obligated to do so. If you wish to keep your firearm in your vehicle – don’t park on their property – park someplace else or find a new employeer. Your rights never never never trump someone else’s rights on their own property. People have the right to be idiots and to bar someone from bringing a weapon on to their property. You have the right not to do business with or for them. It is a choice we make. What rights are we willing to give up for employment or to visit another’s property is a choice. Public property is a whole different ballgame. Also, unless your employeer guarantees your safety explicitly, that is not something you can expect. But, it is your choice to make the agreement or not. So, if your employeer bars storage of your weapon in your car on their property you can; 1) quit and find other employment; 2) agree to abide by their rules on their property; 3) park your car somewhere else where it is allowed; and 4) hopefully get your employeer to change his/her/its mind.

  15. I think that “no gun” zones unbelievably stupid, but guess what — people have the right to be stupid. If stupid was a felony, most of the country would be doing life without parole. I strongly oppose any law that dictates to property owners in this way. If it’s my parking lot and have a “no guns” policy, then you go park somewhere else if you don’t like it.

    “No guns” signs in Massachusetts have the force of law, as they should. The argument that it’s your car and you can do whatever you want with it is sorta true. You can do whatever you want with it, but not on my land. If you break my rules on my land, you’re going to get run off, arrested or shot.

    Why is it that gun guys tend to talk out of both sides of their mouths on this issue? You cannot be a staunch supporter of your freedom and at the same time try to enact laws to screw with the private property rights of others just because you find them inconvenient.

    • Why is it that gun guys tend to talk out of both sides of their mouths on this issue? You cannot be a staunch supporter of your freedom and at the same time try to enact laws to screw with the private property rights of others just because you find them inconvenient.

      Because like too many other people, they want what they want and don’t really care about whether they have to tie themselves up into logical pretzels in order to get there (see also: The desire of some to see federal court rulings trump a state’s general police power when it comes to regulating who may carry a concealed weapon or where it may be carried.)

      FWIW I agree with you even though it is apparently the minority opinion here. Employer’s lot = employer’s rule. Don’t like it? Park somewhere else.

      • so if the employer says no korans in your car, then what? What if the employer top dog is a religious fundamentalist and says no condoms left in your car b/c he is against birth control? What if the employer decides that fat people have to park farther away to make them walk more (in most states, fat is not a protected class)? What if the employer decides that the employee has to join a particular religion to get a juicy spot near the door or attend mass during the day? Yes, employer lot = employer rules.

        • DD, if you don’t know the difference between condition and conduct, you’re beyond my help.

          Try this test: walk down the halls of your employer’s office singing the Colonel Bogey March at the top of your lungs. You know the song that starts with “Hitler has only got one ball?” Then tell your boss about your First Amendment rights. I’m sure he’ll be as impressed as I am.

      • I didn’t like my employer’s rules, so I did 5 years of additional hard time and now I make the rules! Stop whining about your job conditions and start doing something about it. That’s what freedom and human rights are all about, not telling me what I can and can’t do on my private property.

      • Martin, the comparison with national reciprocity is a poor one. The closer analogy would be to driving license reciprocity. Carrying in any jurisdiction would remain subject to that jurisdiction’s existing restrictions as to time and place. Illinois’ ban on concealed carry, for example, would not be trumped by the Federal law.

        Were I able to obtain nonresident permits for all 49 states that permit CCW, I would do so. I can’t because many states specifically discriminate against nonresidents, even those who (like me) are perfectly willing to submit to any type of scrutiny or testing that the jurisdiction may wish to perform.

        Massachusetts doesn’t recognize any out of state permits, even though it’s own licensing requirements are among the lowest in the country. OTOH, nonresident permits are usually granted. Good for MA.

        Nearby Rhode Island has a higher standard for issuance (it requires a qualifying score on the shooting practical), but will not issue a nonres permit to me regardless of my outstanding background, training and firearms proficiency.

        “Denial states” are not exercising their police power, they are applying it in ways that are discriminatory, arbitrary and offensive to basic Constitutional protections. The entire system is corrupt and must change.

        • Ralph: I’m not sure I understand your point. It’s been a while since law school but IIRC driver’s license reciprocity is not a Constitutional issue nor is it mandated by Federal law (corrections welcomed if I am wrong) – IOW, if Rhode Island wanted to stop recognizing MA driver’s licenses, they could. Of course, it would be stupid for them to do so, but doing so is within their discretion.

          They don’t do so for the simple reason that it is more convenient for them to recognize the driving licenses of other states’ residents because then it means the other states will recognize RI resident’s licenses, and so on. Because movement and travel are so important to our economy and our way of life, any state legislature that did not offer reciprocity on DL’s would find itself the (justifiable) target of anger by its own constituents.

          Concealed carry is not the same thing. What is the value to MA of recognizing my CO permit? How does it benefit the residents of MA?

          As far as reciprocity goes, I don’t oppose it but I also don’t think HR 822 stands much of a chance of becoming law (especially considering the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.)

          I do worry that any attempt to “harmonize” CCW laws could result in a diminution of the rights that we have as concealed carriers in CO (one of the most “liberal” CCW regimes – no stupid rules about not carrying in bars, etc.) but I don’t see the issue as being a priority among most state legistlatures, either.

  16. There are already laws on the books for every violent or dangerous thing you can do with a gun. Between injuring people and simply putting people at risk for injury, there are plenty of laws ready to prosecute.

    The real problem people have with guns is that those people want control, and when they’re interacting with someone with a gun, they can’t be controlled by force.

  17. ‘A lot of government is like that, it’s about getting the balance right,’ he said…

    And therein lies the problem with government thinking. No, government is not about balance, and morality is not about balance; both are about upholding what’s right and what is American. Trying to “balance” what’s right with what’s wrong but popular is BS, plain and simple.

    I know this doesn’t have much to do with the article, just saying.

  18. For those who keep referring to their employer, something to keep in mind, does your employer own the land? A lot of companies lease their office space, in those cases the company has no say so over the parking lots as they are not the owner.

    I’ve had that work in my favor, I used to work for a company that had a strict no weapons on company property policy but my office was in a building we leased and the property owner had not prohibited any weapons on his property.

  19. Employers’ interference with the private lives of their employees is nothing new. If you want to keep your job, some require you to quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and not pursue what, in their opinion, are dangerous hobbies. A DUI conviction is likely to get you fired even if it wouldn’t hinder you from performing your duties. My former employer “encouraged” contributing a specified percentage of your salary to the United Way and donating personal time to community activities like the Boy Scouts. Although it was “voluntary”, people who didn’t comply got zip for raises, bonuses and promotions regardless of how good they were at their actual jobs. Some companies prefer to promote only employees with families on the grounds that they are more mature and stable.

    Personally, I think keeping personal weapons locked in the car while on company property is a reasonable compromise between the employee’s right to carry and the employer’s right to control what happens at his business. If anything, I would require employers to provide a higher level of workplace security if they want to ban employees’ firearms entirely from their property. I would remind those who say “my business, my rules” that they are already subject to minimum wage and labor relations laws and to OSHA regulations.

  20. Despite the Hoosier affinity for small government in matters of property rights and business regulation, Parking Lot 2.0 would allow employees or job applicants to file a civil action case against business owners who demand to know what weapons are being stored on their property.

    Oh, in Indiana, the employers are forcing employees to sign waivers that they can search your car anytime it is in their parking lot.
    I do not mind people having property rights, but what about mine?

  21. It’s simple. My car; my property. My parking in a parking lot does not transfer ownership to the owner of the parking lot. Want to know what’s in my car? Get a search warrent. Want to control what is in my car? Buy the car. Until then, what is in my car is my business.

    • No. But bringing your property on to my property is subject to my rules. If you want to bring your car and park it where I make the rules – you need to follow them or not bring your property onto my property. You don’t have the right to use my property (park your car on my property) unless you abide by my rules. I know that property owners making that decision is stupid, but they have the right.

  22. My property MY rules. Period. Especially in the case of business establishments and employers.
    If your employer establishes a policy prohibiting storing weapons in your car and this is a deal breaker for you then you politely turn in your two week notice and finish out your last pay-period without bringing your weapon with you to work. You get a good reference and you’re done. You’re being remunerated here there’s no argument against following the rules set forth by the guy who pays you provided they don’t require you to commit an actual crime. When you enter into a contract with someone to provide services in return for the aforementioned remuneration it’s your responsibility to protect your own rights, if your employer tries to trample your second amendment right then you need to protect it by getting another job.

    People seem to fail to realize that the constitution protects your rights, but it doesn’t protect you from yourself there’s no “right to have your own rights protected by anyone and everyone but yourself because that’s what’s fair!” In the Bill of Rights. Damn folks.

    As for businesses, even simpler solution, if a business causes your inconvenience or enforces a policy that you are seriously opposed to on moral or philosophical grounds then take your money and your purchasing power and go elsewhere. That’s the beauty of (what was once) a free market. The lack of monopolies effectively allows consumers to dictate to businesses how those businesses go about their business… unless your demand is totally crazy (I once had a customer complain about a man masturbating in our bathroom with the door unlocked, the wanker* said he had every right to do so, I told him to find a coffee shop that shared his view, I’m fairly certain he never did) then the business will change it’s policy quick, fast and in a hurry the minute they start to lose money.

  23. The issue at controversy is NOT about guns locked in cars parked on company property. The issue at controversy is about guns in gun owner possession on the daily trips between home and workplace. It’s one thing for an employer to make the executive decision that employees will not have firearms on or about their person while working in the factories and offices of the employer. It’s entirely another for that employer to make the decision that their employee’s are not to have their legally owned and possessed firearms on or about their person while commuting to and from the employer’s factories and offices. That is the true effect of such workplace prohibitions at places where the only option is commuting by car and parking in the company parking lot.

    The Indiana laws are a good compromise between business owner property rights over their workplaces and employee property rights over their vehicles, AND it preserves the right of self defense of commuters.

    I’ve never heard a hoplophobe give a cogent explanation of the obligations and liabilities of businesses or other places of gun prohibition for the safety of their employees, patrons, etc. while on their properties or commuting to or from them. If an employee who has a firearm and license to carry same in their car is carjacked on their way from home to work, would it not make their employer liable for the disarmament and helplessness of that employee in the face of armed criminality?

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