Glenn Harlan Reynolds, of Instapundit fame, was the specal lunch speaker at the National Firearms Law Seminar yesterday at the NRA Annual Meeting. Professor Reynolds gave an interesting talk derived from an article he wrote for the Tennessee Law Review last year, “The Second Amendment as Ordinary Constitutional Law.” He covered a variety of topics, but said one thing I thought really interesting (which I hastily scrawled on my napkin, so apologies if the wording is not exact): “If a premises owner bars me from possessing a gun on those premises, he should be liable if I suffer as a result of it, as if he had done it himself.” . . .
I have actually been thinking about this idea for a while, too, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. Although I understand the motive behind them, I am reluctant to support laws that dictate what owners can or cannot do with their private property where civil rights are concerned. Prof. Halbrook observed earlier in the seminar that there are at least 40,000 possible offenses in the federal code, each one a legal land mine that the ordinary citizen has to be careful to avoid. After all, what shall it profit us to protect the right to keep and bear arms at the expense of other rights?
The idea proffered by Prof. Reynolds, however, may be an elegant solution to the issue. If the problem is one of personal security, then banning the citizenry from going about armed for their own protection on your property is your right as the premises owner. But I think it’s axiomatic that by doing so, you are thereby implicitly taking responsibility for the security of the people who you are welcoming.
On balance, I like the fact that this idea forces the party that bans its invitees from possessing firearms to take responsibility for the consequences of that decision. And while the plaintiffs’ bar tends to skew to the left, there are, no doubt, plenty of plaintiffs attorneys that would be willing to jump into the fray on that score.
Nothing’s without cost, though. As in all things, there may be unintended conseequences. If their hand is forced, I could easily see boards of directors uncomfortable with the idea of the unwashed masses walking around with firearms in their establishments pouring money to research (for instance) ways to passively detect firearms. There may be long-range implications for privacy here. And there may be other consequences I am not seeing.
But at least initially, I’m on board. You?