Saturday, March 13, 2010

Indiana's HB 1065, the Gun in Your Glove Box and Property Rights

Every once in a while an issue comes up that pits some rights against others. HB 1065, which is legislation the Indiana State House passed and is now awaiting Governor Mitch Daniels' signature is one of those pieces of legislation.

The bill essentially makes it illegal for a business/employer to have a policy against employees bringing firearms, locked in a glove box or otherwise stowed away, onto their property.

Now, at first blush libertarians like myself might hail this legislation as a massive blow in favor of people's right to self defense. But, is this not also a massive blow against private property rights? Let's examine further and without getting tied up in the emotions of the gun issue. We'll also presume that we're addressing things from a natural rights perspective within the confines of Constitutional government (not what passes for the authoritarian government systems we have today).

Let's lay the ground rules first.

1. You have a right to your life, liberty and property.
2. Nobody may deprive you of these rights without your permission.
3. You have the right of voluntary association (you may not be forced to associate with people you do not desire to). Voluntary association and activity is always superior to that which is forced.
4. Government is the negation of liberty and exercises all authority by threat of force or violence.
5. Being on someone's property without their permission is trespassing.
6. The Constitution sets restrictions on what government may do.
7. Any private property owner could set a policy that nobody is allowed to park on their property. Or that only American made cars are allowed or only blue cars or whatever else.

Let's analyze the impact of HB 1065

Currently, an employer may set a policy that says that nobody is allowed to bring a firearm onto their private property, even if it is locked in the glove box of a car. Now, personally, I find this terribly offensive to anyone who has gone through the process and is licensed to carry a firearm or even more offensive to anyone that might be former military. BUT, if the private property owner sets this policy then:

1. It is not the government forcing one side or another to accept anything.

2. Voluntary associations are maintained (you may park elsewhere; petition the property owner for relief; do it anyway and keep your mouth [and glove box] shut; choose to no longer provide labor or professional services to a company, business or property owner that does not share your values)

3. The property owner's sovereign control of their property so long as nobody's rights are involuntarily violated is preserved (you volunteer to the restriction by continuing to park on their property or work there)

4. There is no Constitutional violation because government did not create this restriction, a private property owner did. Just like a private business owner might choose to fire somebody for saying something stupid, offensive or threatening - there is no "free speech" protection in the private sector.

If the government sets a law that requires property owners to allow this then:

1. Association is no longer voluntary. The private property owner must now accept your trespass against their wishes.

2. It reinforces the idea that the government, not property owners, is the final arbiter of what is permissible on your premises. (smoking ban advocates try and pretend that patrons are involuntarily deprived of their right to life by the cigar or cigarette smoke in bars, completely ignoring that people voluntarily walk in and expose themselves or voluntarily work there [SAME LOGIC APPLIES HERE - You believe in private property rights and voluntary association or you do not])

3. An employer might just add a line to their job applications - "Are you licensed to carry a firearm" and start denying employment based on the answer. If gun permit information is available as part of a background check that might also cause an employer pause if they are adamant in ensuring no firearms are on their property [note: payment for a permit to exercise a right is a ridiculous notion but, at least the General Assembly is working to protect that information by making it private via HB 1068]

4. Instead of somebody risking losing a job if discovered, the business owner is now a criminal if they attempt to retain control over their property.


So, while people may momentarily think they've won some kind a "take that you bozo employer I'll bring my gun if'n I wanna" victory, just remember that property owners just got a big, "government is the final arbiter of what you must allow and you'll shut up and take it" from big government sticking its nose where it doesn't belong.

As for me personally, I strongly support the right of people to be prepared to defend themselves but I abhor the idea that government has to tell me what must be allowed on my property. Remember, the 2nd Amendment applies to government restrictions not to private property owners.

13 comments:

biggles58 said...

The one difference I see in all of this after thinking about it is that your car is still YOUR property. Your employer has no right to access your car, to inspect the contents of locked containers in your car, or search your car.

I can begrudgingly accept an employer who denies his employees the right to carry while on the clock, but what you have locked in your trunk or glove compartment is beyond his reach.

If the employer is allowed to fire someone for having a handgun in their locked glove compartment, the only way they could enforce that policy is if the employer assumed the right to search your private property, which if this was enacted by the legislature, would be 'under color of law,' and therefore, unconstitutional.

Also, if this company policy applies to customers as well, does this presumed "right to search private cars" also apply to those customers? What if an employee comes to work early as a customer, are his rights to his property extinguished as soon as he punches the clock?

Sean Shepard said...

Biggles.

You make a good point; but, keep in mind that the property owner is granting permission for the car to be there on a conditional basis.

And, absolutely, they have no right to search the car to enforce any such provision; but, obviously someone is likely to lose their job or have other action taken against them if the owner of a company decides they are insubordinate. OR, the employer may make a condition of their employment an agreement that provides for search of a vehicle - that could be something they sign as a condition of employment.

Interesting point about customers. That would be rich wouldn't it? "No Shirt, No Shoes, Gun in Your Glove Box = No Service" (LoL)

If an employee came as a customer first, then clocks in to work they would have to be in compliance with company policy during their time as an employee OR it may stipulate that employees, period, are barred regardless of whether they are on the clock or not.

From a practical perspective, the best thing to do is for people to keep their glove box closed and their mouth shut when at work.

David W said...

I believe we have a concept that is covered by the constitution in that we have total control over our property. Much as in an embassy has sovereignty over the property of it's country while still inside that country. We still retain the rights of our vehicle, we pay our payments to the bank to keep it. We pay for the insurance that insures it. It is or fault if we run into something while driving it on company property. Until the company takes full possession with the permission of the owner, they should not be allowed to dictate what is kept inside it. It would be the same as telling an ambassador he cannot keep hand guns inside the embassy. The embassy is inside the grounds totally controlled by the U.S., however, they are not bound by the laws of the U.S. The vehicle is basically our embassy. They should not have the right to dictate what we store in it, only what we can take outside of it onto their property.
Dave W

wedeclare said...

I think the bigger point is that we continue to dismiss the constitution as law, and continue to make up new stuff ad hoc and without authority.
The constitutions are meant to keep politics out of most things…very specifically in the matter of gun rights. But this doesn’t in any way negate a person’s absolute rights over personal property.
You can make up all sorts of scenarios to describe reasonableness…but that’s not the law as written. And whether you’re fer or agin constitutions as written, without them we have no rights, because there are no agreed-upon, written restraints upon the power to oppress.
This law was a mistake. It further eroded Rule of Law. Big mistake.

John said...

I hate this issue because I can absolutely understand both sides of the argument. Whose right do you put first? The second amendment right of the employee or the private property and free association right of the employer? Can the employer extend the restriction to customers? Is the customer agreeing to an implicit contract before he or she parks there? If that's the case, can an employer refuse service based on other arbitrary conditions like skin color or sports team affiliation?

Is it valid for an employer to fire an employee because they object to the bumper stickers the employee has on his or her car? What if they have a book in their glove box that the employer objects to? These are no more constitutionally protected than the right to keep bear arms.

There was the case of the IUPUI janitor getting fired for reading a book at work about the KKK at Notre Dame. Many libertarians were rightfully outraged by that violation of freedoms, but would it have been be fine to be fired if he was working for a private company?

I know I'm taking the argument to a somewhat ridiculous point, and I'm not saying that I necessarily disagree with Sean's interpretation, but it is a much grayer issue than Sean is presenting it as.

Sean Shepard said...

@John.

I would probably argue that the government cannot fire somebody for what they are reading but a private employer absolutely could.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights are restrictions on government, not individuals and even falling back natural rights an employer has a right to voluntary association. A business owner doesn't HAVE to exchange money for labor services with somebody he doesn't want to.

Ultimately, I look at this issue as "the car is parked on property by permission of the property owner and, since they have the power to completely deny all parking they also have the power to regulate such parking".

Now, that doesn't give them a right to search your car against your will; but, you may forfeit your job if refusing to allow such.

I agree completely this issue stinks because it pits some rights against others and it has to be sorted out by which ones take precedence (which generally means which ones preserve voluntary activity and associations).

John said...

I still think you're painting it too black and white. When I start my new job in two weeks, and I have my copy of "The Dirty Dozen" in my glove-box because I want to read it during lunch. If the owner of the company were an FDR worshiper and didn't want any of his employees reading a book critical of New Deal politics, could he fire me for having the book locked in my glove-box on his property.

To put a messier problem in, many businesses don't own the property they operate in. What happens when the desires of the employee, employer, and leaser conflict? If a leaser has no problem with firearms on the property, but the employer does? Does a leasee then have no rights over the property since they don't actually own it? Can a landlord allow a warrantless search of one of their renter's homes? Maybe if they include a clause in the rental agreement, but what if no clause exists one way or another? Can a landlord disallow firearms in their properties? Retroactively? Since you don't own the cable or phone lines going out of your house, is warrantless wiretapping of phone and internet just fine as long as the police have the permission of Comcast or AT&T?

As I said, I don't completely disagree with your argument, I just see lots of potential problems here when you take an absolutist position on this, and am playing the devil's advocate.

Sean Shepard said...

In Indiana, with certain exclusions based on race, gender and related traits, you can be fired for any reason.

An employer can decide he just doesn't like the way you look and, although they make up some other reason, you are an "at will" employee.

It's the employers money, they are the final arbiter of who they give it to in exchange for services, labor, talent, skills, etc.

Doesn't mean people won't be jerks or make dumb decisions, but it's theirs to make.

Brian C. said...

There are instances where an employer can certainly search your car, especially if someone says they saw you doing something weird in your trunk etc....

I am all for bringing my gun to work, I hope it gets signed.

John said...

@Brian C.

"There are instances where an employer can certainly search your car, especially if someone says they saw you doing something weird in your trunk etc.."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that is the case. If someone sees you outside putting something dead-body-shaped in your trunk, sure they could confont you about it, but you are not legally obliged to open your trunk for them. They can ask you to leave, and they can call the police and tell them what they saw, but they have no legal authority to search.

Sean Shepard said...

"I'm all for bringing my gun to work, I hope it gets signed" translates into "I don't care about the property owners rights, I want to legally violate them."

This is the same as

"I'm all for free healthcare, I hope they pass Obamacare" as it translates into "I don't care about property owner's rights, take their stuff to pay for it."

These positions are nearly identical, yes?

Paul K. Ogden said...

John,

The statement regarding Indiana being an at-will state is correct. An employer can basically fire you for any reason, except for being a certain race or gender, or you're exercising a right you have.

****************

I think some people are suggesting the law is unconstitutional. I totally disagree with that. States are not prohibited by any provision of the federal or state constitutions from giving these rights to gunowners. That though doesn't mean it's a good law. Those are two different concepts.

jfreas said...

This is an interesting thread that I just picked up. Now that the law is signed and has gone into effect it is interesting to see the private sector at work.

Our company has always prohibited guns (and weapons of all kinds) on their property, including in parking lots which they own. With the passage of HB1065 they have modified this policy. I quote:

"We feel that guns should not be on company property, but we will comply with Indiana law. [Company] has put strict controls on how employees are expected to act if they possess a gun onto our parking lots. Guns or ammunition are never allowed in company buildings, or company owned, leased or rented vehicles.

Summary of the policy requirements includes:

We require all of the following to be met:
The firearm must be secured with a trigger lock.
The firearm must be stored in an aluminum or steel gun case with a key or combination lock.
The firearm must remain unloaded at all times while on a company parking area.
There may not be more than one firearm in a vehicle.
The gun case itself must be affixed to the vehicle by mechanical fasteners or by means of a steel tether which is secured to the vehicle with a key or combination lock. The gun case must be affixed in the vehicle’s locked glove box, locked trunk or out of plain sight
Ammunition must be secured separately from a firearm. Ammunition must be stored in the vehicle’s locked glove box, locked trunk or out of plain sight.
A firearm and ammunition may not be stored in the same area of the vehicle.
The firearm or ammunition must remain in its individual, secure container and in the vehicle at all times. Brandishing, displaying or removing the firearm or ammunition from the vehicle is prohibited.
A vehicle containing a firearm or ammunition must remain locked at all times. (This last point assumes you unlock long enough to get into or out of your own vehicle)

Violation of this policy will result in termination."

Regardless of your position on the law, it is not so easy to force an individual (person or corporation) to bend to your wishes. In this case the company has effectively made it so difficult to comply with their policy that it is not worth most people's trouble to keep a gun in their car.

Chalk one up for the property owner.