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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Firearms in Vehicles and Privacy Comment
    Gregory Morris, 1/28/08 11:46:03 am
    The debate at SIH regarding the recent NRA push for a "guns in parking lots" bill in GA seems to have subsided.

    This was also a recent issue in FL, where the bill was defeated by a backstabbing legislator, Disney, and the Chamber of Commerce. Well, the issue is not dead (not that I thought it was or anything.)

    I'm kinda torn on this bill... I have no problem with land owners allowing or banning whatever they choose on their property. I don't agree with the idea of making firearms a "special case". In general, I believe in a property owner's right to make the rules. However, I also believe that the inside of my car is my own private property. That fact doesn't change simply because I pull into a parking lot. Thus, if a property owner publicly allows vehicles to enter and park on their property, that would not give them the right to search or demand that you disclose the contents of your vehicle.

    So the problem I have with this particular bill is that it centers around firearms. This should be a clear cut case of whether or not the inside of your car is private in the same way that the inside of your house is private. (e.g. - Your employer can't demand that you allow them to search your home.) If your car is not offered the same privacy considerations as your home, then the point is moot. In Florida your conveyance is considered an extension of your home for self defense purposes, so I see no reason it should not be for privacy concerns as well. But making a specific "firearm" exception just seems like bad law to me. As much as we gun owners complain about confusing laws that are impossible to follow, we should also be aware that business owners face a similarly daunting task. This law would add one more thing for them to be "careful" about, instead of the more important task of determining the existence or lack of the vehicular privacy rights.

    [Comments are closed after a month.]

    Re: Firearms in Vehicles and Privacy
    Robb Allen, 1/28/08 12:18:39 pm
    As long as there's no legal recourse, I have no issue with them denying X objects on their property. The biggest problem is that as a property owner, I can ask you to leave because the color of your shoes clash with your shirt. I can also ask you to leave if you won't let me see what's in your wallet and you have just as much right to not patronize me for the most trivial matters.

    What I've come to value as a good compromise that protects everyone's rights is removing the responsibility from the property owner. If Jane Doe shoots you, it's not the business' fault. If it weren't for all the lawsuits, I guarantee you there wouldn't be rules against it. But in today's litigious society, companies are afraid they'll get sued (and lose) if some nut comes in and shoots up the place.

    I'd be happy if I could simply have my own pistol and shoot back without the company suing me for breaking their "no gun laws" or ending up in jail because of it.
    Re: Firearms in Vehicles and Privacy
    Gregory Morris, 1/28/08 1:31:19 pm
    Well, first of all, private property "no gun" rules don't really mean much in FL. I can hang all the "gun free zone" signs I want, and it you can't be charged with anything just for carrying a gun there. As I've mentioned over at Sebastian's place, all the law needed to handle those situations are defined in trespass statutes and case law. I agree that private property owners need to have some defense against litigation stemming from the actions of a third party, especially for property on which the public has the right of access.

    The thing is, I don't agree with you that Disney, et. al. would drop their "no guns, and we'll search your car to make sure" policy just because they were granted immunity from litigation. Less companies might feel the need to adopt such policies, but overall, I doubt much would change. Perhaps if companies were held liable when someone is unable to defend themselves due to company policy... that might change some minds, but that will never happen because as you said, you have the right _not_ to be there.

    All I'm arguing is that the inside of my car is private while I'm in public or on my property. Public includes roads, government-owned land, and private property where the public is assumed to be permitted (such as at malls, 7-11s, etc.) Property owners can deny the right of access to the public, in which case any entrance on the property is purely contractual, and they may set whatever terms they like, up to and including forfeiture of the right to privacy.
    Re: Firearms in Vehicles and Privacy
    Nick, 1/28/08 2:56:54 pm
    I have a question regarding privacy. Now, I don't know statutes or case law for Florida (or anywhere else, for that matter), but I agree that a vehicle can be considered an extension of one's property. But would not one's person be just as important in protecting privacy? For example, carrying a gun in one's pocket. Would a pocket not fit into a category similarly to one's vehicle. Except one's pocket is an extension of one's self, which I would think would easily be equal to extension of property in terms of deserving of privacy protection (if not more deserving of privacy protection).
    Re: Firearms in Vehicles and Privacy
    Gregory Morris, 1/28/08 8:31:26 pm
    That's an excellent point. That's also why the NRA, in my opinion, is staying away from the argument altogether... it won't sound good in the press. The Brady Campaign would scream "private property owners will be forced to allow guns!" In reality, your suggestion would still only allow you to carry anywhere that you have the right to be in the first place (i.e. - a mall or 7-11, but not someone else's home or a private club.) The thing is, that's how Florida law already works. Of course, that's not what is at issue.

    The question is: can an employer tell you that you cannot carry a concealed firearm to work? Sure. For that matter, they can also tell you not to keep a gun in your car. The issue of employment contracts is not in question here, because clearly, you can make a contract say anything you want, so long as it isn't against the law. The question I am asking is whether or not they can enforce that contract outside of court (i.e. - via searches.) In my opinion, you only risk being fired (and possibly sued for breach of contract) if you carry against company policy. It is really no different from taking an extra coffee break or surfing the internet at work...

    I guess it boils down to how far an employment contract can go. I'm not well versed on that matter at all. If a company said, "while you are employed with us, you give us the right to search your home whenever we feel like it," would that fly?

    Another issue with my actual post: if a company provides private parking for employees, could they have more say over what is kept in their cars? I think the answer to that would probably be yes... but then you run into the problem of a company forcing employees to park in their private lots. It is a lot to think about, but I think it is fair to say that at some point there is a limit to what a company can contractually demand of its employees. Where that line is must still be defined.
    Re: Firearms in Vehicles and Privacy
    Gregory Morris, 1/28/08 8:34:30 pm
    Also, in response to your post... if you as an employee are allowed in places on the property (such as behind the counter, or a store room) where the general public is not allowed, then you do not have the same rights as if you were in "public". If a non-employee wants to carry a gun into a mall that has a "No Guns" sign, there's nothing anyone can do except ask him to leave if they find out he is carrying. An employee, on the other hand, does give up some rights, contractually, as a term of employment.
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