The state of Virginia has just enacted a smoking ban for restaurants and bars. At the same time, Virginia’s governor, Timothy Kaine, plans to veto a bill authorizing people with concealed-carry permits to carry weapons into bars and restaurants.
The state of Arkansas failed to enact a law repealing a ban on handguns in churches. Meanwhile, in Illinois, where the state has banned guns in churches, a pastor was shot to death by a gunman during a Sunday church service.
What do all these things have in common? They all involve a principle that early Americans clearly understood but one which all too many modern-day Americans have little appreciation for: the bedrock of a free society is private property. When government is permitted to infringe on private property rights, that is a society in which people are losing their freedom.
Why shouldn’t restaurant owners be free to establish their own rules on how their restaurants how going to be operated? It’s their restaurant, isn’t it? It doesn’t belong to the state, the public, the workers, or society. It belongs to the owner. He bought and paid for it. The deed is in his name.
A restaurant owner has three options: establish a no-smoking policy, a smoking policy, or sections for smoking and non-smoking. Why shouldn’t that be left up to him?
By the same token, consumers and employees are free to make their own choices. They might prefer a restaurant that allows smoking, or one that doesn’t, or one that has two different sections.
Ultimately, if consumers are orienting toward no-smoking restaurants, the market will nudge restaurant owners in that direction. But that’s a far cry from the police power of the state being employed against restaurant owners who wish to cater to the smoking crowd.
The same holds true with respect to Virginia’s ban on concealed weapons in bars and restaurants. Why not simply leave that issue up to each restaurant? Some restaurants will permit concealed weapons to be brought in and others will not.
The inanity of Kaine’s plan to veto the Virginia concealed-carry restaurant bill is reflected by the fact that Virginia law permits people to carry weapons openly into bars and restaurants. Thus, as long as a gun owner takes his concealed weapon out of concealment and carries it openly into the restaurant or bar, he’s in compliance with Virginia law.
The private-property principle is no different with respect to guns in churches. Some people find the notion of guns in churches objectionable from a religious or spiritual standpoint. Fair enough. But why shouldn’t church officials, as owners of their churches, be the ones who set their own policy? Parishioners can decide where they want to attend church.
Under principles of private property, some churches will permit concealed weapons to be brought into church. Others will have a policy that prohibits such conduct. People can then make up their minds as to where to attend church. Those who find a church’s pro-gun policy offensive are free to attend church elsewhere. Those who feel safer with such a policy can choose to attend the pro-gun church.
The problem with statewide ban on guns in churches is that it deprives church owners from establishing a pro-gun policy for their church. We can’t say for sure whether that pastor in Illinois would have been saved if people in church had been free to carry concealed weapons to defend themselves from such an attack. All we can say is that the church was prohibited by the state from establishing a pro-gun policy in which people would be free to protect themselves from murderers.
By the way, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, that shooter in the Illinois church violated the law that prohibited him from carrying a weapon into church. Presumably, all the church goers were unable to defend themselves because they were complying with the law.
If a church or restaurant establishes a pro-gun policy, does that mean that everyone will be carrying concealed weapons into such establishments? Of course not. But the fact that some people will carry actually helps to keep everyone else, including those without weapons, safer. When a murderer comes into a restaurant or church planning to do his dirty deed, he doesn’t know who is armed and who isn’t. Thus, those with concealed weapons have the element of surprise and are able to defend not only themselves but also everyone else in the restaurant or church.
By the way, while one often hears about shootings in churches, one never hears about shootings at gun shows. I wonder why.