Whose Business Is It?

The recent shooting incident in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado raises a question of basic rights. According to the reports that I’ve seen, the theater in question bars the carrying of firearms. Of course, we see how well a sign declaring a “gun-free zone” worked, but that’s another matter. I want to consider the broader point about the boundaries of rights.

Take my home as an example. It’s generally agreed that I have a large measure of a right to privacy within its walls. Under our laws, if the government wants to come in, there must be a warrant issued by a judge to allow that, minus a small number of exigent circumstances. Our government violates that all too often, but many of us recognize that to be a violation. In addition to privacy, I have the right to say who gets to come in and what my guests get to do while visiting.

But what about a business? If I own a business, how much control over the behavior of visitors do I have? A business operates in public. We’re not talking about private clubs here, so we’ll leave aside questions as to whether a golf course can bar blacks or women. The point is what rules a store that is open to the public can have.

It’s here that we need to distinguish between passive and active rights. Take the case of a woman walking into a store while wearing a hijab. She is practicing her religion in public, but that’s a passive practice. If she walks around speaking to customers about her beliefs or if she calls out a prayer, she’s moved into action.

I chose the example of Islam first precisely because it’s the one that many Americans will have difficulty with. But the same question applies to a Jewish man who wears a yarmulke.

As I said above, a public business is just that. It has to be open to everyone who comes to participate in the business. A store owner has the right to remove someone who is disrupting that business, but the passive expression of a person’s basic rights–in the examples given, the right to exercise of religion–is not a disruption.

How does this apply to the events in Aurora? The handgun that I carry concealed on my person is not a disruption to the normal activity of any business. Unless I’m in imminent danger, it won’t be visible. I don’t cross over into active expression of my right to self defense on a whim. Since I am passively exercising my right, the business has no justification in banning what I do, any more than it would have to ban a yarmulke or a hijab. The laws in some jurisdictions don’t comply with rights in this regard, and those need to be changed.

What this points to is how much freedom we each may have in public. As always, I seek the most freedom that we all can have while we’re together.


8 thoughts on “Whose Business Is It?

  1. Tom

    That’s why I think reasonable, common sense gun laws would be centered on the four rules of gun safety. Guns are allowed everywhere (they’re already there, whether we know it or not), but if you violate one of the four rules, you could be breaking the law. Practicing your cowboy action quick draw in Times Square with a presumably unloaded gun? Testing out the new Crimson Trace on a bus full of people? Breaking in the new AR using a tree in front of a playground as a target? Casually resting your finger on your holstered pistol? I think those are the laws that gun rights supporters and antis could agree on.

    1. Greg Camp

      There’s sense in what you say, although I’d rather not punish anyone who hasn’t caused any actual harm. Well, shaming by those of us in the know would be a good approach.

      1. Tom

        The antis call for an “adult” conversation about guns, and come up with complicated registration/license/testing/storage schemes that would not prevent any criminal use of guns, and impose restrictions on a right that would be unthinkable on others. But imagine in exchange for unrestricted, national concealed carry, eliminating registration requirements of suppressors and automatic weapons, and no municipal or state restrictions on guns, we impose economic penalties on non-lethal violations of the 4 rules? We punish people all the time even though no actual harm has been done, like being arrested for failing no-refusal breath-alizer tests. Instead of jail, you’d lose the gun.

      2. Greg Camp

        Right now, we have no reason to compromise. If you talk to people who advocate for more gun control, you’ll see that they aren’t willing to budge on anything. Add to that all the gains that we’re making at the moment and the aversion of politicians to add any new restrictions, and I don’t see a reason to give any ground ourselves.

  2. Tom

    Well, you’d need support from Democrats and Republicans to overturn the Firearms Act of 1934 and Gun Control Act of 1968, regardless of who gets elected this fall. The Senate won’t be filibuster proof. There are enough anti gun rights Democrats left to screw the whole thing up.

    The antis just want to ban guns, but there really aren’t many of them. The Heller decision allowed for “reasonable restrictions” (ugh), and the antis will try to ban guns through those. The broad middle of the US electorate doesn’t buy into the antis arguments, but probably wouldn’t go for a completely unrestricted right to firearms. Even in Texas we can’t get momentum for open carry. So, the “common sense” and “reasonable” restrictions would be based on the 4 rules of firearms safety, and there would be no more non-sensical ad hoc laws like “assault weapon bans” or “pistol permits”.

    The idea is to push the argument to exclude the antis’ mania that is driving so much of the media. Take the Today show’s “sting” on a face to face gun sale in Colorado. “That gun could take down a helicopter!!” “What if those people were criminals!!!” It was an idiotic piece, but how many millions of Americans saw that, and took it to heart? We have to frame what the “adult” conversation is.

  3. rebeccaguns

    Reblogged this on rebeccaguns and commented:
    I’ve read a lot of articles and posts this past week about the recent shooting in Aurora, but couldn’t get his one our of my head. It is such a simple, concise defense of concealed carry without playing on sympathies or blame. It also underscores the point that the vast majority of the legal gun owning population is primarily concerned with the protection of innocent lives, not the extermination of them.
    If you enjoy this piece as much as I did, please check out Greg’s blog. http://www.gregorycamp.wordpress.com


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