Thursday, February 19, 2009

The second amendment vs private property rights

There has been a battle brewing for the past few years between the second amendment and private property rights. The first volley of the battle was fired by Weyerhaeuser Co., on October 1 in the year of 2002 in the state of Oklahoma. They brought in drug sniffing dogs, which found guns in vehicles. The plant officials gave workers who owned the cars an option, either allow your vehicle to be searched or you are fired. When the vehicles were searched and guns found, 12 employees were suspended and later fired. In 2004 the Oklahoma legislature passed a law making it legal for employees to have guns in their car while at work regardless of company policy. It passed with a 92 to 4 vote in the senate.

Then Weyerhaeuser, Whirlpool, Williams (a large Tulsa employer), and ConocoPhillips sued to keep the law from going into effect because it was “an unconstitutional taking of private property”. At this point, I knew this case was going to the Supreme Court. In 2007, a judge ruled that the new law violated the federal “1970 Occupational Health and Safety Act”. By this time ConocoPhillips was the only plaintiff left, as the other companies dropped out. Recently, a federal court ruled in favor of Oklahoma. So the law is still hung up in court and one step closer to the highest court in the land.

This issue is less than clear, gun right activists can disagree. First I want to state some clear facts we can all agree on. The judge (U.S. District Judge Terence Kern) who voided the state law is a moron. His reasoning is weak. A federal law passed in 1970 is just a distraction, taking away from the discussion surrounding the second or fourth amendment (you can even include the 3rd and a sprinkle of the 5th in there, because it seems like the 4th really starts and ends there). The issues at heart here are private property and the right to be armed.

Many have cast this case in the light of the second amendment and private property. In fact that was what the original law and suit were about. Arguments are very strong on both sides, the right to bear arms and self protection on one side. The right of a private organization to control what happens on its property, on the other. The fact is that neither of these rights is without their limit. Background checks, CCW laws, environmental, and zoning regulations all place limits on the rights. One solution would be to pick the right that you think is stronger or the one you want to be stronger, but by doing that you will weaken the other. That sets a dangerous precedent. In a world where my rights are constantly under fire, having any of them weakened is not an option. What is a freedom loving man to do?

While many have cast this in the context of the second amendment and private property, they are wrong. This is a case of property rights colliding. Portable private property is in conflict with another’s stationary property. Is my car considered my home? Do I have rights against search and seizure? Privacy? Do my vehicle rights trump my employer’s control of their property? Those are questions that are much smaller in scope and easier to answer, than the first debate. Those are questions I feel courts can begin to address.

This would have never been an issue if the corporation had kept to their selves. If a company had left the private property of it’s employees alone, they would have never had a issue. They could have left the policy on the books and only applied it if there was good reason. The letter and the spirit of the law would have been both satisfied. Additionally, responsible employees’ rights would have never been threatened. One company overreached and then the state reacted to protect the people who place votes, and that is how we get a Supreme Court case. In this case, I tend to side with the rights of the individual over the rights of a corporation. It was the rights of the individual that were trespassed against originally and I hope those rights are restored.

Two weekends ago in Tulsa there were six shootings in nearly 48 hours. All of these shootings happened north of Highway 244. I happen to work above the bloodline and I carry to work.

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