The recent story of two students at Gonzaga University has renewed debate withing the gun owning community of how property rights relate the the 2nd Amendment. I’d like to share a few thoughts and observations and would like your input. Property rights are a fundamental right. Most of us would agree that when someone is in our home, they are expected to respect us and our property. If a threatening stranger tried to enter my home with a firearm, I wouldn’t allow it. If a guest tried to view objectionable content in my home (things covered under the 1st Amendment, but that I or my family found offensive), I would not allow it. While those individuals have a Constitutional right to possess a firearm and view that material, my property rights within my own home allow me to restrict those activities . . .
We also need to consider the legal method for restricting them (I’m not a lawyer, this is my understanding of the laws and could be wrong, please educate me if I am incorrect). Generally speaking, there won’t be a law that dictates that a property owner would have the right to restrict viewing objectionable media by anyone on the property.
My ability to restrict people’s rights on my property is a result of my right to restrict their access to my property. It may not be illegal for a guest to view say, pornography, against my will on my property, but it is illegal for the same person to be on my property as a trespasser after I’ve asked them to leave. So really, my ability to “restrict” others RIGHTS on my property is derived from my ability to control their access to the property. A simple if/then statement from a land owner to a guest explains it well.
“If you do this, then I will ask you to leave (Failure to leave will be considered trespassing, which is a crime).”
Ultimately, it’s the guest’s choice. I’m not really restricting any right because they can simply leave my property and continue doing whatever it is they wish.
For the sake of this post, let’s say that you all agree with me thus far. The next question, and the question where some of our opinions may start to differ, is how these property rights apply when the property is leased to another person.
When a land owner leases a home (I’ll use the word home as a space functioning as a lessee’s primary residence) to a person, should that land owner be able to restrict the possession of firearms within that home? My answer to this question is a very firm NO. I don’t believe that a land owner should be able to restrict the fundamental human right to self defense within any space that serves as a home.
Would it be acceptable for a landlord to to specify that the only religion that can be practiced within the home is Christianity?
Would it be acceptable for a landlord to specify that no religions can be practiced in the home?
Would it be acceptable for a landlord to restrict the possession of bibles in the home?
Would it be acceptable for a landlord to specify that only Fox News, or CNN be watched in the home?
Would it be acceptable for a landlord to require that all letters and emails written in the home be shown to him before you are allowed to send it?
Would it be acceptable for a landlord to specify that any absentee ballots sent from the home be votes for Republican candidates only?
Would it be acceptable for a landlord to require a list of all usernames and passwords for all of your online accounts you intend to access while in the home?
Based on a simple view of property rights, you could argue that with each of these is as simple as an if/then statement from the land owner, and that all of the above would be acceptable. You could argue that it is still a choice the lessee makes. “If you do this, then I will ask you to leave.”
Based on that simplified view of property rights, 32% of the households in the US would be second-class citizenss because they aren’t land owners (or more correctly, are not living on land that they own), and therefore not truly entitled to their rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Most conservatives are concerned about a move towards socialism, but is this simplified view of property rights as it pertains to the leasing of homes a step toward feudalism (where non-landowners are at the mercy of land owners)?
While I’m a firm believer in property rights, I believe that there should be laws specifying that when a home is leased (a primary place of residence), certain rights cannot be restricted based on the desires of the land owner. Ultimately, if you cannot exercise your Constitutional right to armed self defense within your home, you don’t have that right. No government, corporation, or individual should be able to restrict those rights within your home.
Clay Moultrie owns SHTFGear.com