Senate Bill 37 by State Sen. Alan Clark easily passed the Senate on Tuesday.
The legislation has a laudable goal — expanding the right to carry a weapon — but a troubling side effect: a government mandate that forces private businesses to allow employees with a concealed carry license (CCL) to store a handgun within their vehicle on the business’s property.
Clark’s legislation would require private employers to allow employees to store a handgun in their vehicle in the employer’s parking lot.
Here’s how Clark explained his bill on Tuesday:
We’ve done a great deal to allow employees at courthouses and employees at other public places to be sure that they can protect themselves both at work but more importantly going back and forth in between.
When you mandate where someone can not have a firearm…you can’t have one coming and you can’t have one going unless you have some stash somewhere where you can stop stop and pick it up.
We have competing property rights. We have the rights of the business owner of which I’m one. We also have the personal property rights of [the vehicle owner].
Clark is correct that the legislature has done a good job recently of making many publicly-funded institutions more Second Amendment friendly. However, there’s an obvious difference between a public institution, which receives taxpayer funding, and private property, which doesn’t.
Institutions that receive state funding are rightly subject to the policies and regulations enacted by the state legislature. Requiring private property owners to be subject to these mandates is a different story entirely.
Clark’s argument about the “competing property rights” of the business owner muddies the waters with respect to this clear violation of private property rights, but it is not an entirely serious argument.
This becomes evident when you think about the difference between parking your vehicle in your own driveway, as opposed to parking in a private business’s parking lot. For example, I have to pay for the privilege of parking in certain downtown areas of Little Rock, because I’m on someone else’s property. I don’t have to worry about such things when I’m parked on my own property.
The Clark bill is an encroachment by state government on private property owners — an outcome that shouldn’t be very palatable to conservatives. State Sen. Linda Collins-Smith said as much in her testimony Tuesday against the legislation.
Let me suggest one important fact about how property rights are supposed to work. The idea is that you control your property; other people don’t control your property, and government doesn’t control your property. The owner gets to decide what happens on the property. The protection of property rights is a building block of the great American tradition of freedom.
As a practical matter, this protection of property rights means that, if I don’t want somebody driving a car onto my property, they can’t. If I don’t want somebody driving a truck onto my property, they can’t. And relevant to this discussion: if I don’t want somebody driving a car or truck that contains a weapon onto my property, they can’t.
The Clark bill will shortly be heard in the House Judiciary committee.
Let’s hope the House does a better job than the Senate of protecting Second Amendment rights without limiting private property rights.