Assumption of Risk


Life is risky. When I get out of bed, I risk tripping and falling. When I stay in bed, I risk missing breakfast. One of the essential parts of being free is my ability to choose which risk to take. One of the desirable features of our constitutional form of government is its protection of my freedom to choose which risks to assume. It’s notable failures are often related to allowing someone else to take those choices for me.

The recent beheading in Oklahoma has got folks talking about the possible value of “bring your gun to work” laws. There is no likelihood of the state where I live (Maryland, where the courts have ruled that the Second Amendment does not apply outside of one’s home) will pass such a law, and that’s one limitation on gun rights that does not bother me per se.

Private property owners should have the freedom to assume the risks associated with maintaining their property as a gun-free zone. Of course, assumption of that risk should include liability for protecting guests from violence. As an employer, I should have the right to manage my employees’ behavior on the job. As a business owner, I should also have the responsibility for providing a safe environment for my employees and customers, and I should be held accountable if I fail to do so. I should be held strictly accountable if I act to increase an employee’s or patron’s risk.

This gets to my problem with most “bring your gun to work” laws. They force an employer to assume the risk of armed employees rather than allowing him to choose to assume the risks associated with maintaining a gun-free zone. Morally, this is no different from forcing the employer to assume the cost of birth control as a part of health coverage rather than the risk of paying for a pregnancy. As Charles C. W. Cooke has noted, this sort of interference with risk assumption can amount to something like Obamacare for gun owners. If a Catholic may object to birth control, why can’t a Quaker object to guns?

Don’t get me wrong. When I have run businesses, they been hospitable to firearm owners who wish to discreetly exercise their Second Amendment rights, but I believe that we should protect the right of those folks who wish to operate or patronize gun-free zones as long as they are not a public nuisance and the owners fully assume the strict liability that should be associated with their choice.

19 thoughts on “Assumption of Risk

  1. My only issue with it is that most employers won’t assume the risk of protecting their employees. What do you think the odds are of a deceased employee’s heirs collecting a penny from a business with a strict no gun policy? I’d say about as much as the widow DeLong has of collecting from the diddler. Business strives to assume no risk. They want no risk of employees defending themselves and they want no risk of having to defend their employees. And they have armies of lawyers to make sure they can have it both ways.

  2. Agreed completely. A business owner runs the risks that come with whichever way they choose to implement a safety policy for their employees. Each one has their up sides and downsides and they have to make a cost-benefit analysis for any solution. Whether businesses want to have risks, they are always there. You just have to pick which ones are more acceptable to you.

  3. I agree with Frankie. Most businesses don’t want to risk an employee going rogue (although the no guns policy does not prevent that, rogue employees ignore the policy.), but also don’t want to be responsible for providing the security that they prevent their employees and customers from self providing.

    They want to be able to eat the cake and still have it too.

      • Yesterday I was out and about. We had a squall come in off the gulf and I sheltered under a businesses’ canopy. After about 10 minutes another older fellow who was doing the same sidled up to me and whispered “Are you armed?” I bent over and whispered back “Only with a sharp wit!”. I then lifted my Hawai’ian shirt to pull out my Zippo from my right side (and lit a cigarette) then lifter the other side to pull my cellphone from it’s holster … I guess a fellow with a lumpy Hawai’ian shirt is scary to some folks.

  4. So “manage my employees behavior on the job” means you can violate their fundamental constitutional rights? Does that include equal protection under the law, or can you discriminate based on a trait/feature/aspect you don’t like? No? So I guess some rights are absolute, and others are at the whim of the ebb and flow of public opinion. And “Private property rights should trump all” – so pizza delivery guys can’t carry weapons if their employee says so? But wait, they aren’t on private property then – at least not the property of their employer most of the time.

    And what does it say about me as a free person if I leave the responsibility to protect and defend myself to a another party, just because I have a commercial relationship with them?

      • No, it doesn’t. You can’t deny renting that nice rental apartment you refinished in you home to a gay couple because they are gay, or baking them a wedding cake – their rights outrank yours. Sorry, just the way it is.

        What I am trying to say is that we are at a point where your “rights” ebb and flow with public opinion – which is not the way it should be.

      • So wait…you are saying that No shoes, No shirt, No service is illegal now? You can’t refuse to serve someone in your privately owned establishment? Yes, I know there are federal housing laws. But in your other examples there is no federal law that says you have to serve anyone. Malls and movie theaters have No Guns signs. Does that violate my 2nd amendment rights? Nope. They are a private enterprise and can and will ignore my rights. I can choose to patronize the establishment unarmed, or not to patronize them at all.

      • No, he wouldn’t, because he isn’t allowed to leave it in his car, and he would have to leave it when he visited peoples’ homes because he wouldn’t know if they allow or don’t allow armed people on their property (or when picking the pizzas up from the company). And then what is the point if he can’t actually carry it when delivering pizza?. And if the employer finds out he is carrying when on company time, they will fire him. Ask Domino’s.

  5. You have this exactly backwards. You are not assuming the risk of employees carrying. The actual increased risk is purposefully disarming them. If you don’t allow them to defend themselves and then something happens. You should be responsible.

  6. Okay, so think on this.

    I am a federal employee on a military base. Army Regulation 190-11 prohibits me from carrying while on-post, even though I have passed a background check and posess a state-issued concealed carry permit. Further, the Army claims (on signs posted at the gates) that USC 18 section 930 prohibits me from bringing a firearm on post (it doesn’t, really, it prohibits me from bringing one into a federal workplace).

    I am also a retired military officer and hold a security clearance from the federal government.

    I am not on private property, I am on federal property. I am more-than-adequately trained and vetted. I am, arguably, working in a setting that makes me a target of both home-grown and Mulsim extremist terrorists.

    Does your argument about not carrying on private property break down at that point?

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