We wonder what Cody Jacobs’ reaction would be to making those same businesses liable for injuries and deaths caused by designating their premises gun-free zones.
At the same time that laws regulating publicly carried guns have been relaxed and eliminated, the amount of truly “public” spaces in America have been shrinking. When most Americans go “out in public” they are often really going to privately owned spaces like strip malls, grocery stores, shopping malls, and big box stores. Even places that have traditionally been thought of as public are often under private control like sidewalks and parks.
Although states have relaxed their public carry laws, even the most permissive of these laws tend to allow private landowners to make their own decisions about whether to allow people to carry guns on their property. The upshot of this is that private businesses now have a tremendous amount of power to decide whether guns in public will really become commonplace or not.
My article argues that businesses ought to be held accountable for the consequences of these decisions through premises liability. Premises liability is a tort doctrine that holds landowners liable for dangerous conditions on their property. The classic example of this sort of liability is a “slip and fall” where a person is injured after slipping on debris on a business’ floor and then sues the business for allowing the dangerous condition to go unchecked.
In the gun context, businesses who choose to allow customers to carry guns onto their property ought to be held liable when that choice results in another customer’s injury or death. This would not force businesses to ban guns, rather it would force them to internalize the costs of allowing guns onto their property. Businesses in areas where guns are popular might choose to simply eat the cost (or insure the cost) of this potential liability in order to continue to attract customers who would like to carry guns.
– Cody Jacobs in Firearms Law Mini-Symposium, Part VI: Guns in the Public Square