Op-Ed: Does a parking lot have more rights than you do?

by Chris W. Cox
NRA-ILA Executive Director

Silly question, I know. But your NRA-ILA is fighting against huge corporate conglomerates who argue that the rights of a humble patch of asphalt outside a business trump yours.

They argue that companies can void the rights of law-abiding citizens on company property, even if the property is open to the general public. If you stop at a grocery store, for instance, they argue that the store can prohibit you from leaving a firearm locked in your vehicle while you shop. It doesn’t matter to them whether you lawfully transport a firearm for protection, recreational shooting, or hunting--even if you have a Right-to-Carry permit.

It’s not just guns. Lobbyists for big business in Florida claim that they can ban books, Bibles, or even a copy of the U.S. Constitution, from your vehicle as well. Their argument is simple: Any business can declare the constitutional rights of a person to be null and void, if that person is on company property.

The issue first came to a head at a Weyerhaeuser paper mill in Valliant, Okla. One business lobbyist ruefully recounted the Oklahoma incident to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying that “Dogs were brought in to do a drug shakedown--the dogs had been crosstrained for ATF use, so they would hit on explosives and gunpowder or guns … I think there were seven employees who had guns in their trucks or cars. They were terminated … they went a little too far in the Oklahoma case.”

If the warrantless search of private vehicles by police dogs is a “little too far,” I’d hate to see these companies really put some effort into violating our rights. Companies justify these police-state tactics under the rallying cry of “property rights.” But property doesn’t have rights. People do.

Property owners do have rights, to be sure. So do employers. Property owners can prohibit trespassers, and companies can establish rules for conduct in their workplaces. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce quoted one newspaper as saying, “an employer has the right to ban extreme body piercings and tattoos, or to insist on jackets and ties. An employer can prohibit workers from showing up at work with Girl Scout cookie order forms or raffle tickets.” This feeble comparison overlooks the obvious: There is no constitutional right to dress as you please, or to sell cookies at work.

When companies invite their employees and customers to park on their property, however, the property rights of those businesses do not magically balloon and blot out the constitutional rights of their employees and customers. Property rights are a matter of law. The right to self-defense is not only guaranteed by the Second Amendment, but is a “natural right” that predates the Constitution.

But Big Business even disputes that simple truth. Consider the following quote, and guess where it came from: “Supporters of the bill who favor placing gun rights above the rights of property owners rely on a questionable understanding of Second Amendment rights for legitimacy. Often the NRA and its supporters will argue that gun ownership is an inalienable right provided for by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That is not consistent with the text of the amendment nor with the courts that have interpreted it.”

No, this statement was not written by a lawyer from a gun ban group. It was circulated to Georgia legislators by the constitutional scholars at the Georgia Traditional Manufacturers Association. That’s right--business lobbyists are arguing that you simply have no Second Amendment rights at all.

So it should be no surprise to learn that the business lobbyists have teamed up with the gun ban groups to defeat common-sense bills that would protect your right to self-defense. To defeat a bill in the Florida legislature, the Florida Retail Federation hired a lobbyist who had previously been the Southeast Regional Director for the Brady Campaign and the Million Mom March. You know what they say about birds of a feather.

against employees and customers on the grounds of race, color, religion, or disability. But these gun ban policies are blatant discrimination against people who choose to exercise a constitutional right and take responsibility for their own safety. These policies cut to the core of your natural, guaranteed right to self-defense, and they render Right-to-Carry permits meaningless.

The arrogance of the business lobbyists runs thick. “Parking on a company’s property is a privilege, not a ‘right’,” sniffed one business group. I’d like them to tell that to a customer who’s elderly or mobility-impaired.

These ridiculous arguments are even crazier when you consider the fact that every one of the reform bills has included liability protection for business owners, which they don’t have under current law. So even though the bills actually help businesses, the big corporate lobbyists, in their greed for power, opposed them.

The corporate giants have insulted state legislators for even considering reform bills. Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce told the Miami Herald he questioned how “you can be smart enough to be in the legislature and still consider this bill seriously.” And the Georgia Chamber of Commerce took top prize for hysterical alarmism, claiming that a reform bill “fails to protect businesses and job creators and their employees who may be the subject of terrorist attacks.”

I wonder just how many people would agree that forced disarmament is the best protection from terrorist attacks. But the real impact of these policies is not nearly so hypothetical. Workers have lost their jobs to corporate gun ban policies. Other honest people have been victimized by violent criminals on anti-gun corporations’ property. Our files of these incidents are growing every day. Will your job--or your safety--be next?

Article originally published at NRAILA.org. Reproduced with permission.

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