Monday, February 04, 2008

Stickin' To My Guns

Or, If This Ain't A Lap Dance, My Underwear Is None Of Your Business
Or, Yes, Robinga, There Are Property Rights

And so on and so forth.

Several commenters have framed the question of one's right to keep'n'bear arms on private property as a conflict of rights; some have suggested that because property rights are so routinely violated by legislative fiat, one more ("in the aid of a good cause!") won't matter.

I luvs ya all (here's a big ol' snogg t'prove it: mmmmmwah!) but, well, BZZT! Wrong.

It's turtles property rights all the way down.

I'm in favor of "keep it in your car" laws and other laws that, in the words of the Bradys, "force employers to allow workers to carry concealed weapons into the workplace" because most employers don't have any way to keep folks from carrying -- nor do they go to any other effort besides saying, "Now, now, pretty please don't," which as we all know, works ever so well on the crazies and the ill-intentioned. Workplace rules against carrying work just like laws against carrying: they disarm only those who are minded to play by the rules. Striking them down levels the playing field and strengthens property rights. I explain below.

L. Neil Smith titled one of his essays "Why Did It Have To Be -- Guns," and just to make comprehension easier for everyone, I'm going to make my starting examples about something other than firearms. We're gonna talk about underwear and scary studded biker belts. Okay?

It all stems from property rights: the basic property right has nothing to do with land, with bricks and mortar; the basic right is property in your own person. Yer bod'. The coverings upon it, the coverings over them, and the various and sundry vade mecumbrances[1] you stuff into the pockets and interstices thereof, suspend from it, etc. etc. Stemming directly from this property right is your right to privacy in your person. You will find some allusion to it in the U. S. Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment in particular. Can we all agree that while the Fourth restricts its limitations to the government, the right to privacy in one's person and immediate effects is indeed inherent and universal?

If you disagree, consider this: I enter your business, go to work for you or enter your home under circumstances in which I will not be visible to anyone unclad. Do you have the right to dictate to me what sort of underwear I may wear? How do you propose to enforce your will? Is it any of your dam' business if I'm swathed in fine lace, sweating into a cotton knit, or tingling to oiled leather?

Now, if we were to become intimate and you've got some freaky hangup against cammo-patterned boxers and that's what I've got on[2], you'd be on pretty solid ground suggesting I had better leave. Conditions of our interaction will have changed.

Okay, rewind, strike out "underwear," substitute "concealed sidarm." It isn't any different.

The interface between your property rights and mine is right where your floor meets the soles of my shoes. I didn't lose or gain any rights when I stepped onto your floor and you didn't gain or lose any.

Okay, next. Say I like wicked-lookin' biker belts, the big wide black ones with studs 'n' eyelets and yadda yadda (and in fact, I do). And I'm invited into your house with one on and you don't like it. Oopsie. Well, I can go stash it in my car, or if that's not enough, seeya later! Likewise, an employer has some right to dictate what employees may wear, for safety, for the sake of providing some appearance the employer deems needful or fitting, that's pretty basic. Yes, they can tell me not to wear open-toed shoes, or T-shirts with political slogans or mean biker belts, even the superkewl one made of old drive chain. (Shucks!) May a business exercise a similar power over its customers? Well, fine, chum, but you don't make money by chasing customers away.

And if you sub in "openly-carried sidearm," it works just the same.

My car? Even parked on your lot, the inside of it belongs to me -- especially if I keep it locked. That's just practical good sense. (We'd like to think everyone around us respects the property of others, wouldn't we? Yes, and in Happy Unicorn Rainbowland, maybe they do. Not on this planet. Lock yer doors). My car, my house, my purse: mine. And mine to keep secure. What's in 'em is none of your beeswax.

Okay, there's the general case. Brass-tackage follows.

For corporations, my opinion is the bar's higher and they should be held to the standards of the Bill of Rights. YMMV.

Right of contract? Sure. You already can sign away a lot of your rights, ask any bail bondsman. On the other hand, my relationship with my employer's governed by a contract and it says not Word One about weapons; and yet I still respect their fears and refrain. In a practical sense, I'd likely lose anyway were I to press the issue and get caught, the courts bein' far from immune to animism with respect to handguns. On a higher plane, since they do supposedly have some silly rule I'm happy to let 'em suffer any negative consequences that may come of it. I'm usually well out of the likeliest lines of fire. That contract also includes some boilerplate about "...subject to the laws of the nation and state...."

The previous two paragraphs together start to point to the "drug-sniffing dogs that find guns" question. It seems to me that if Artifical or Real Person "N" goes a-sniffin' fer them horriawful, illegal drugs to be found in the private cars parked in the lot, he or she or it is once again acting as an agent of the State and ought to be bound by the Bill of Rights and whatever similar provisions are to be found in the state constitution and applicable statute an' case law, with an eye to things like "probable cause." Oooo, remember when that wasn't snickered at? In the real and present world, keepin' an ear to the ground would not be remiss.

Tam's hippie with a candleshop, same as my generic examples: let him be guided by what he sees. And let Tam and the other customers be guided by their good sense. Flashin' a gun you don't intend to shoot is as declasse' as flashin' your undies at someone you're not plannin' to sleep with.

This stuff is not that hard. There's no "conflict of rights" here. It's turtles all the way down.[3]
1. "Vade mecum" + "encumbrance." I'm so clever I could just erp.

2. Un-freaking-likely, Pilgrim.

3. This is in reference to a story Turk Turon delights in, about a lecturer on cosmology being confronted by a sweet little old flat-Earther lady who tells him, "You're wrong about the world being a ball. It's flat and it stands on the backs of four elephants and they stand on the back of a giant turtle." "Oh," he asks, "And what does the turtle stand on?" She replies, "I see what you're trying to do, young man, but it won't work. It's turtles alllll the way down."


Turk Turon said...

Lap dances, studded belts ...and then you throw in Latin!? And top it off with turtles!? Have mercy!

Seriously, I'm glad you like the story. Supposedly it actually happened to Bertrand Russell, but the story is in one of Stephen Hawking's books.

Roberta X said...

"Write what you know," they say, an' I lived in the seedier neighborhoods for simply years. ;>

Anonymous said...

Well, that wasn't what I was expecting. [cue trumpets]

And I can't even think of what to say, because you got me all distracted now. ;) (especially that tingling part)

Over in a different forum, I had a brief discussion with a friend over whether there are any rights so inaliable that one cannot, even willfully, give them up. The most extreme example I can think of would be whether you can enter into a contract to commit suicide in exchange for compensation (obviously, to be paid to a 3rd party of your designation). Well, obviously, you can. But is your right to life violated by such a contract? We can ratchet it down a bit and consider selling organs.

That said, I'll have to come back tomorrow and see whether I can connect your 'bod'/underwear argument with your later concession that people can voluntarily sign away their rights. Noting, as well, that I have heard of dress codes requiring brassieres for women. Well, that's usually easier to determine then whether you're clad in the appropriate shorts or not. But I think that's a side issue anyway.

Also, in the 'how can they tell' area, the some of the employment policies I've seen do contain permission to inspect your car. In the Weyerhaeuser case, IIRC, searches were conducted based on alerts from drug-sniffing dogs.

So, is asking you to open your trunk on par with asking you to drop your pants? And, if you sign an employment contract agreeing that you will wear only Fruit of the Looms, because that's whom you're working for, is there an implied right to verification?

Anonymous said...

Dang. I'd'a' been first, if I weren't so damn wordy.

Now my verification string contains "xxx".

Alan said...

"tingling to oiled leather".

I think my brain just core dumped.

What were we just talking about?

Roberta X said...

Then my work here is done! ;D

Roberta X said...

P.S., Alan, I'm quoting you. :)

Anonymous said...

Well-reasoned. You have my applause.

Now here's the obligatory "Yes, but..."

I would argue that the Fourth Amendment -- like the Second -- because it makes no specific textual reference to state actors (as the First does in the phrase "Congress shall make no law"), makes an absolute proscription. No exceptions. Applies to everybody.

The right of the people ... shall not be infringed (or words to that effect).

That is to say that no actor -- state or private -- may conduct an unreasonable search (and I would argue that unreasonable must in this context be defined by the person being searched) without a warrant.

And this, of course, applies to all levels of government -- as, indeed, is recognized in application in the justice system.

The right b*tch is that the concept has been so corrupted by ill-use over the years.

As for waivers of rights, I suppose anyone may execute one. The problem comes when Jones' waiver of rights is taken by all and sundry to mean that it's OK to assume I've also waived mine.


Mark Alger

staghounds said...

You've changed my mind on this.

The underwear example is good, but a constitutionally protected example works the same- a cross or a swastika. The boss can tell me not to expose one at work, and he can probably tell me not to have one in my possession at the work place. But if it's in the car, he'll have a problem.

staghounds said...

In a real life discussion of this post, I mentioned the comparison of the gun at work to a Bible at work. This followed-

"Yes, it's a good example. But Roberta's will get more interest. More people like underwear than like the Bible."

"More people USE underwear than the Bible."

"Maybe if they made little lacy Bibles. Or crotchless Bibles."

"Or leather ones."

"They DO make leather ones."

"Not all the way through..."

Tam said...

Don't you just hate it when the person you're talking to is quicker to a keyboard than you are?

Pththththttt! :D

Anonymous said...

it would be illegal for an employer to require everyone that entered to go topless, it would be illegal for them to require employees to smoke pot, it would be illegal for them to prohibit wearing glasses... but when it comes to the one tangible piece of property that is guaranteed by the constitution, its ok for them to prohibit that?

staghounds said...

Since going topless in a public place is a crime for women, and smoking marijuana is a crime for anyone, then yes, an employer could not lawfully require his employees to do those things. Nor commit robbery, either.

As to the third, I don't see why an employer could NOT prohibit his employees from wearing eye glasses.

You lose sight of the issue being discussed here- should a law be passed which PREVENTS employers from requiring employees to not bring guns to work? That is, should guns be made different from other things as they now are not?

Roberta X said...

I would argue that guns are already treated under the law as different from (many) other things, both for good -- "constitutionally-protected right" -- and ill in the form of the many, many changes rung on the "guns are bad" laws that restrict carry, limit purchase and track owners.

Under the Bill of Rights, the products and process of the press, the expression of our thoughtc, our faith and our firearms are to be treated "differently," as items of property ensured particular protection from authoritarian meddling. That issue was settled in the 18th Century...or so it was thought.

staghounds said...

I agree- to any honest English speaker reading the Bill of Rights, a pistol and a Bible have the same legal status.

Alas our courts have not seen it the same way. There just isn't the history of "guns are different" in the same way that we have a history of (say) "Nativity scenes are different".

There should be, but there isn't.

Anonymous said...

"Do you have the right to dictate to me what sort of underwear I may wear? How do you propose to enforce your will?"

(1) Yes, if it's in the contract. (whether at the time you agreed to it, or if the contract was later amended by one side).

(2) Full body scanners at the entrance your workplace.