Should the Originators of Gun-Free Zones be Civilly and Fiscally Responsible for Harm Caused by Their Actions?

By Jay D. Hunt, III, Ph.D.

The Constitutions of both the United States and the State of Louisiana are quite clear: Individuals have the God-given Right to protect themselves and those they love. In 2008 in Heller v. the District of Columbia, the US Supreme Court held that, because the framers understood the right of self-defense to be “the central component” of the right to keep and bear arms, the Second Amendment implicitly protects the right “to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” Also, in 2008 in McDonald v. City of Chicago, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment, which guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” applies to state and local governments as well as to the federal government.

It’s natural in any free society that rational people will disagree, and governments have allowed individuals to declare their property “Gun-Free Zones.” I think we can all agree that any person has the right to decide that they don’t want firearms in their home, and by extension, has the right to ask guests to not bring a firearm into their home. Most of those reading this essay might question the wisdom of that request, but we all agree that it is the homeowner’s right to declare their home a “Gun-Free Zone.”

The question becomes somewhat more complex, however, when the “Gun-Free Zone” is a public location. As we know, public schools and government buildings in Louisiana have been declared “Gun-Free Zones.” The wisdom of that is certainly questionable, but as a lady once told me, “Dems da rules!” Likewise, the courts have all agreed that the owner of a business may declare their business a “Gun-Free Zone” and ask their customers to disarm before entering a premise. All over Chicago one sees the ubiquitous red circle with a slash through it over a Berretta Model 92 reminding concealed carry holders in Illinois that they are not welcomed in those locations.

When declaring an area a “Gun-Free Zone,” the business owner is, by definition, depriving an individual of the right of self-defense. However, as a customer, I have the ability to avoid that business (and I personally always do so to avoid being disarmed in a public place). Economist John Lott, Ph.D. has noted, “With just one single exception — the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011 — every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.” This claim seems improbable, and I have not personally verified the veracity of his claim. However, we do know that the “Gun-Free” School Zones implemented by President Clinton have been unmitigated disasters. We know that military bases were also made “Gun-Free Zones” by President Clinton and that mass shootings on bases have risen since then. We know that the Aurora, CO movie theater was a “Gun-Free Zone.”

The obvious question is, should those who actively enforce “Gun-Free Zones,” including governments be responsible for any gun violence that occurs in those zones?

A number of like-minded legislators have attempted to do just that. In Michigan, a Republican state representative introduced legislation that would hold government offices and private businesses liable if anyone is injured during a shooting in a “Gun-Free Zone” on their premises. Michigan State Rep. Gary Eisen introduced HB 4975, which would revoke governmental immunity from lawsuits arising from injuries sustained on government property where guns are banned. He is also sponsored HB 4976, which would make a government, business or individual that designates a property a “Gun-Free Zone” responsible for the safety of individuals who enter it. In Tennessee, a Republican state senator introduced SB 1736, which would allow any Tennessean with a valid gun permit to sue a property owner in the event of injury or death provided the incident occurred while in a “Gun-Free Zone.” Similar legislative efforts have also been proposed in Arizona, Florida, and Missouri.

Is it time for Louisiana to join the debate? Should the LSA lobby for legislation that would hold state and local government as well as private business owners responsible for disarming concealed carry holders? What do you think?

Speak Your Mind