Strakon Lights Up

Guns, I understand —
But what’s this “property” stuff?

Mr. Strakon is editor in chief of The Last Ditch.


The Brady anti-gun folks are absolutely correct on this one. Now, I'll bet you never expected me to say anything like that.

Please allow me to paint the background. The Indiana General Assembly has been considering some reforms in the privileges it graciously extends to gunowners, and since we don't enjoy actual rights any longer, freedom-lovers may feel called upon to utter one or two little cheers. The pending bills contain a provision for lifetime personal-protection permits (the current ones are good for only four years) as well as a provision to correct the current presumption (never consistently enforced, thank God) that a gunowner protecting his life and property, or those of his loved ones, must retreat to the farthest corner before replying to an attacker with deadly force. As Niki Kelly reports in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, "Essentially the language says that people being robbed in their homes or carjacked do not have a responsibility to retreat." ("Proposals advance to widen gun rights," February 26, p. 1C)

However, according to Kelly the most hotly disputed of the proposed changes (I'm getting to it) has been dropped. It's a dead issue in Indiana, for now — but it's still a very live one in other states, including Oklahoma, Alaska, and Minnesota, where the law is actually on the books. And that's why I'm writing about it. The proposal "would have permitted employees to keep loaded guns in their cars on company property," despite the wishes of the property owner. As Kelly writes, "Companies in recent years have banned guns from the workplace as part of a violence-prevention strategy." (The idea, of course, is that maniacs fixin' to unload some buckshot at their perceived enemies will punctiliously consult the company handbook before proceeding.)

Kelly quotes Zach Ragbourn of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in this wise: "It's a stupid, stupid bill. It's bad from a gun violence perspective and worse from a property rights perspective. It tells businesses you cannot set policies on your property." (Emphasis added.) Plain truth, there, at least on property rights, even if it issues from a cosmically improbable source. One may wish to ask Ragbourn whether he would allow homeowners to set policies on their property involving their own self-defense; but we must move on.

Kelly's narrative, now: "Advocates of the bill argue the employees' cars are their personal property, and they should be allowed to carry a legal firearm within one." Those advocates, it turns out, include the NRA, which "plans to have similar legislation introduced" in all the states that haven't already imposed it.

If you haven't noticed, people just don't get the idea of property rights anymore. Contrary to popular belief, employers have the right to exclude Somalian left-handed orange-haired Lesbian amputees from visiting their property, from doing business with them, or from being hired by them. They have the right to exclude people carrying bottled water or cell phones or, I don't know, wristwatches. They have the right to bar anyone and anything they want from their property, certainly including cars and any of their contents.

Now one thing is apparent, and the other thing ought to be. First, while owners have the right to do all the things I list above, they often don't have the power to do them legally. Lawfakers have forever been undermining the right to peacefully control one's own property. In fact one could say that undermining justly held property is the greater part of what lawfakers do, and that includes the lawfakers who are still puzzlingly referred to as "judges." The assault started a little before 1964 — 4,000 B.C., maybe? — but the "civil rights" law imposed in '64 by the Central Government was one of the most crippling, excuse me, differently abling blows ever inflicted on Americans' property rights. In light of all that, we cannot be surprised that most of our countrymen have been rendered differently abled, and drastically so, in getting a grip on the idea of property.

Second, rights cannot conflict. Interests can conflict; plans, hopes, wishes, ideas, privileges, and dreams can conflict. But not rights. If rights seem to conflict in a given instance, one needs to check either his facts or his premises. In this connection, gunowners who feel insupportably oppressed by anti-gun company policies because their cars are their "personal property" ought to reflect on the "rights" of an invited guest in their home, if they should discover that he had carried legal dynamite into their living room, or legal pornography into their daughter's bedroom.

Most Americans will not, or cannot, think in terms of principle. How happy our rulers must be about that. Ω

March 3, 2006

Published in 2006 by WTM Enterprises.

Editor's note. In 2010, the Indiana General Assembly finally enacted the "parking-lot" law. — Nicholas Strakon

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