A gun rights group on Facebook, Cold Dead Hands, has offered up an interesting conceptual argument regarding businesses that “ban guns on premises” and liability for injuries and death that may result from a mass shooting in a “gun free zone.” A meme posted on their page yesterday has gotten thousands of likes, shares and comments mostly supportive of the idea.
We all know the statistics. With a single exception of Tucson, every mass shooting in the past 25 years has taken place in a “gun-free” zone, a place where an individual does not have the legal right to carry his or her gun… See More
This comes in the aftermath of the shooting in Tennessee that left 5 military personnel dead and the prominent picture of a bullet-riddled door with a “no guns” sign in the middle of all the holes. It follows both the conviction of the Aurora Colorado theater shooter and a new theater shooting in Lafayette Louisiana, both of which were “gun free zones.” As the post points out, every mass shooting event in the last 25 years has been in a “gun free zone” with the exception of the shooting of Gabby Giffords in a public parking lot in the “constitutional carry” state of Arizona.
The concept of liability is fairly simple, a law-abiding citizen with a legally owned and carried firearm who is supposedly protected in their right to “keep and bear arms” by the 2nd Amendment is effectively disarmed by the property rights of the business and left unprotected while on the premises. The business effectively deprives the citizen of their self-defense capability, but offers no other protection of its customers while on site. When a business obstructs the ability of individuals to defend themselves, do they take on an implicit burden of providing the protection they have denied?
Should Companies That Enact "Gun Free Zones be Liable?
Now the obvious free market answer is for people to simply not frequent businesses that deny them the right of self protection, but that is not as easy or effective as it sounds. Many businesses that were once “gun friendly” have changed their policies, often under PR pressure from big name gun control lobby groups. “Gun friendly” options are harder and harder to come by, effectively giving citizens little choice, but to put their lives in the hands of property owners in order to carry on their daily lives.
What about those facilities that are “gun free zones” by government mandate? Does a law that impedes a citizen’s right to self defense make the government liable for the deaths and injuries that result from criminal or terrorist activity in such places? If the government facilitates a business’ ability to ban firearms, disarming otherwise law-abiding customers, through legislation and legal posted signage that carries the penalty of law for violation, does the government share liability for death or injury in those establishments that they enabled to disarm customers?
In 2014, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) released a revised report showing that 92% of mass public shootings between January 2009 and July 2014 took place in gun-free zones. Where did they occur? Schools, movie theaters, military bases (twice at Fort Hood Army Base), churches and almost all where “gun free zones” either by government mandate or private property owner’s prerogative.
Government, Insurance and Public Relations concerns all play into the “gun free zone” question, but what is not included in the discussion is liability. Businesses may get a discount on their insurance by being a “gun free zone,” but does that actually make their business safer or a bigger target for criminals and terrorists?
After all, a bakery can get sued and put out of business for refusing to make a cake that violates their religious beliefs. A bartender can be held criminally liable for over-serving patrons who kills themselves or others in a drunk driving accident. Should a business and/or the government assume some liability for disarming law-abiding citizens who could potentially defend themselves or others in the event of an attack by criminals, crazies or terrorists in a “gun free zone?”
Background on Cold Dead Hands: Billed as a “New Breed Of Advocacy” they are a for-profit corporation that funds their advocacy solely through the sale of merchandise on their store website. They don’t take donations and they don’t charge membership dues. They have almost a million followers on Facebook and can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and just about every major social media platform out there. The person who came up with the “liability meme” is himself a lawyer, although he asked to remain anonymous due to potential retaliatory actions from anti-gun zealots. The groups general message seems to be one of founding father doctrine, constitutional original intent, patriotism and most of all individual activism; getting people re-engaged in the political process personally rather than through lobbyist and special interest groups. They view themselves as educators and motivators of the people rather than leaders or representatives of the people.