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.