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OPINION - Property rights should win out in gun-in-car case

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Here's a case where rights are in conflict. We have gun rights, and we have property rights. Which right wins out? The case involves Kolbe & Kolbe, a Wausau company that fired worker Ethan Shepherd in March. Shepherd claims he was dismissed because he had a legal, licensed gun in his car that was parked in Kolbe's parking lot. He's suing to get his job back. There's a disagreement over a key fact; whether Shepherd took the gun out of his car to show it to a co-worker. That may ultimately be the determining factor in the case.

I support gun rights, including concealed carry. But I side with property rights in this case.

There are many legitimate reasons why a company may not want firearms on their premises. Suppose a company is announcing layoffs -- do they want a just-pink-slipped worker to be armed? There are many situations where co-workers don't along. Companies have a legitimate self-interest in making sure firearms are not a part of day-to-day disagreements. And the number one reason for companies posting 'no firearms' signs is legal. If, God forbid, there was an at-work shooting incident a company would have a civil liability lawsuit on their hands if they allowed guns at work. Wisconsin's concealed carry law offers some protection from lawsuits for employers. But anyone can sue anyone for anything, and the legal fees for defending yourself can still be very expensive.

I also think a company owner has the right not to allow guns simply because they're anti-gun. They own it. They have a right to control what happens on their property. I also believe that state laws that allow guns-in-cars, even on private property like company parking lots, infringe on those property rights.

Part of responsible gun ownership is to know where your gun is and isn't allowed. I don't think it's an unreasonable burden on the gun owner to recognize that, on private property, their firearm may not be welcome. I support Ethan Shepherd's right to have a gun. I support Kolbe & Kolbe's right to say "not here".

Chris Conley

Image: Gun Play-Arkansas by Rod Waddington via WikiCommons.