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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8142/guns-and-property/

Guns and Property

May 25, 2008 by

An apparent clash of rights is being debated in Ohio. Senate Bill 184 extends (inter alia) the right to possess loaded firearms, including the right to possess firearms despite the objections of (say) a landlord.

Do these two rights stand in opposition? No. The only real right being debated is the right of property. And, the right of the landlord to own and control his property supercedes any secondary property right, such as the right to possess a firearm.

Those who claim that the right to bear arms extends beyond their property have no understanding of the rights their guns protect.

{ 30 comments }

Fred Furash May 25, 2008 at 2:40 pm

I agree that the landlord can decide whether guns are perimissible on their property or not, but I don’t understand this sentence: “Those who claim that the right to bear arms extends beyond their property have no understanding of the rights their guns protect.”

Guns exist to protect property, correct? But is a human being not also property? Self-ownership, if I remember, is very important. Thus, being the devil’s advocate, I can now twist that around and use it against you, since by owning guns on someone else’s property, you are protecting your own property, your SELF.

I don’t actually agree with that, but be mindful of using that as an argument.

Luke M May 25, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Fred, you got it right in your first sentence, all Jim meant by “those who claim that the right to bear arms extends beyond their property have no understanding of the rights their guns protect,” is that one has the right to own a gun *pursuant to the wishes of the owner of the property on which you are standing*.

Guns are there to protect your life and property but that doesn’t mean you then have carte blanche to carry a firearm wherever you go just because you ‘need’ it to protect your rights to self-ownership. Self ownership is not negated by the fact of some imposition of certain rules by a property owner (which could include the rule that firearms are not permitted). If you enter Disneyland they have every right to refuse you admission if you are carrying a gun. That doesn’t mean they are violating your rights. If you disagree with their rule don’t go. Similarly, if you disagree with a landlord’s “no guns allowed” rule, then don’t sign the contract.

Inquisitor May 25, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Fred, not if it is one of the owner’s conditions to sell/rent you his/her property that you do not carry a weapon on it.

Keith May 25, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Renting an apartment is not the same as going to Disneyland. There is an expectation that you can bring all of your personal property into your residence, even a rented residence, especially if it doesn’t do any harm to the real property. If you can restrict gun property, what else can be restricted? Bibles and Korans? Rap music and Mozart? Blacks and Hispanics?

I completely agree that a property owner has a right to control their property, but when you agree to rent it as a domicile, then I think you’ve crossed a line where you’ve given some of your property rights over to the renter. I can see similarities here to the intellectual property discussions that have occurred previously on this blog.

Morty May 25, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Keith,

If a landlord wanted to prohibit certain books, music, or even ethnic groups, he would be perfectly within his rights to do so. The fact that it is an apartment being rented does not change the landlord’s right to impose any terms freely agreed upon.

Walt D. May 25, 2008 at 8:54 pm

This assumes that we go back to fundamentals and allow the landlord to the right to no dogs, no blacks, no Hebrews restrictions.

Ricardo Cruz May 25, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Keith, as I see it, the person renting a place is just as free to discriminate as is the person looking for a place to rent. I think this is based on the notion that in business one side is “stronger” than the other one, and so needs protection. (or the fact that there are of course more voters renting than voters who are land-lords, and so they “give” them price controls and these kind of stuff)

Ricardo Cruz May 25, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Keith, as I see it, the person renting a place is just as free to discriminate as is the person looking for a place to rent.
I think this is based on the notion that in business one side is “stronger” than the other one, and so needs protection. (or the fact that there are of course more voters renting than voters who are land-lords, and so they “give” them price controls and these kind of stuff)

TLWP Sam May 25, 2008 at 11:59 pm

This article is funny – it reminds of how a anarcho-Libertarian society could be as restrictive as a ‘statist’ society.

Ernest de Cugnac May 26, 2008 at 2:11 am

TLWP Sam – if I have understood you, then on the contrary. We are not used to seeing “No XXX”, but it is hard to understand why not. If the property owner gets it wrong, he won’t be renting; the market will punish him as effectively as any legislation. The point has already been made above. The tenant is completely free to choose who to rent from. Why should the relationship be asymmetric?

TLWP Sam May 26, 2008 at 2:55 am

Huh? It seems to me the biggest market to capture is the family-friendly market. Who knows? If so, then there are going to be mostly family-friendly landlords, family-friendly law&order firms, family-friendly road owners, etc. These are the same providers who’d forbid any ‘adults-only’ features and would be willing to refuse an ‘adults-only’ customer rather than offending his existing ‘family-friendly’ clientele. Who knows? There might be whole suburbs where drug users, drug dealers, prostitute, pimps, Rambo-esque gunowners, etc., who could find themselves unwelcome in parts of an anarcho-Libertarian society.

Kristian Joensen May 26, 2008 at 8:12 am

This is an interesting discussion. It seems pretty clear to me that a landlord has the right(moral, if not legal) to ban guns on his property. But what should be the libertarian position with regards to contracts that don’t cover the situation ? What if a person simply agrees with a landlord to rent a place for X$/month ?

You might say that unless it is explicitly forbidden in a contract between them then the tenant is allowed to have guns on the property.

But based on the principle “the tenant can do whatever is not explicitly banned in the contract” you could argue that he could bring explosives to the property and even blow the apartment up.

I doubt many contracts explicitly say “the tenant is not allowed to blow up the apartment”.

So what would the libertarian position on that be ?

fundamentalist May 26, 2008 at 9:06 am

TLWP: “This article is funny – it reminds of how a anarcho-Libertarian society could be as restrictive as a ‘statist’ society.”

You’re right. I think you misunderstand libertarianism as consisting of nothing but freedom of the individual. But libertarianism has always been based on property and the rule of natural (as opposed to positive) law, not individual freedom. The individual is free to use his property as long as he doesn’t infringe upon the property of someone else.

Kristian Joensen: “I doubt many contracts explicitly say “the tenant is not allowed to blow up the apartment”.

Clearly, contracts can’t contain every possible contingency, but it’s not necessary to include things like destroying another person’s property. That’s taken care of by natural law and the courts, which are as much a part of libertarianism as property and contracts. Say, for example, that someone sets up a meth lab in a rented house without the landlord’s knowledge and blows up the house. The renter would be required to pay the landlord for a new house, or if he had no money, courts might send the renter to jail or make him work for the landlord for free for seven years.

magnus May 26, 2008 at 9:23 am

This assumes that we go back to fundamentals and allow the landlord to the right to no dogs, no blacks, no Hebrews restrictions.

Yes, it does.

But based on the principle “the tenant can do whatever is not explicitly banned in the contract” you could argue that he could bring explosives to the property and even blow the apartment up. I doubt many contracts explicitly say “the tenant is not allowed to blow up the apartment”.

Bringing a gun on your leasehold property does not destroy anything. It infringes on no residual right of the landlord. Therefore, if it is not prohibited in the lease agreement, then bringing a gun is permitted.

In contrast, blowing the place up destroys the residual interest that the landlord retains in the leased property. At the end of the leasehold, the landlord would have little or no property (or at least severely damaged property) revert back to him.

The ancient, common law rule is that a holder of any interest in property that is LESS than fee simple is generally prohibited from injuring the rights of the residual interest-holders.

Kristian Joensen May 26, 2008 at 10:08 am

Thanks for the answers Magnus and Fundamentalist. So basically the principle I mentioned should be amended like so “whatever is not explicitly banned in the contract is allowed, provided that it doesn’t destroy or damage the property” ?

Sounds like a pretty good principle to me.

“There might be whole suburbs where drug users, drug dealers, prostitute, pimps, Rambo-esque gunowners, etc., who could find themselves unwelcome in parts of an anarcho-Libertarian society.”

TLWP Sam, this is exactly correct. But that is certainly no bad feature or Libertarianism or a refutation of it.

In principle prostitution, drugs, etc could be banned on every square inch of this planet under anarcho-Libertarianism, provided that all the owners of all those square inches banned those things on their property.

This is why Libertarianism and so called Libertinism are not the same thing at all. Even though they are often confused.

In addition you have to distinguish between what is legal and what is moral. I don’t think everything that is immoral should be banned, nor do I think that everything that should be legal is moral.

gene berman May 26, 2008 at 10:20 am

Magnus is correct on this. It is entirely proper that the landlord may, by contract, restrict the tenants from keeping guns on the property. But, in the absence of specific contractual restriction, the very ordinariness of gun possession (and the fact that such ordinariness is constitutionally protected) would prevent making some ex post facto restriction (though it could be made upon expiration of the lease by offering only a lease so amended to restrict).

tom shmilovich May 26, 2008 at 10:43 am

it really depends on how the lease contract is worded.. to me it seems quite unfair of a landlord to just come out in the light of day and say that he deosnt want guns on the premisis he should have said that before the gun owner was bound by contract to pay him for the rest of the year.

Luke M P May 26, 2008 at 12:35 pm

I am in no way a part of Luke M and his statement.

Luke M P

scott t May 26, 2008 at 3:09 pm

watching some western movies….a saloon owner would have the patrons hang their gun belts in a wall before drinking started. i guess some property leases could operate the same way if a landlord was so concerned about guns being on a rented property.
i expect the landlords allow the g-d police on their premises (who i thought had a higher suicide rate than the general population).

Keith May 27, 2008 at 7:53 am

I still see this as being very like the intellectual property issue. How is a landlord restricting from his property items that are generally considered legal and undamaging to the property (e.g., a gun, or a bible, or a black person, or a homosexual person, or cheese, etc.) any different than a music publisher restricting a purchaser of their music from transfering it to a computer or mp3 player for personal use. When you rent your property, then you’re giving up some of your property rights to the renter. How far the renter’s rights go I think is a matter of opinion.

Scott D May 27, 2008 at 10:06 am

Keith,

“How is a landlord restricting from his property items that are generally considered legal and undamaging to the property (e.g., a gun, or a bible, or a black person, or a homosexual person, or cheese, etc.) any different than a music publisher restricting a purchaser of their music from transfering it to a computer or mp3 player for personal use.”

Statements like that implicitly assert the legitimacy of intellectual property as property. Patterns and ideas can’t be owned, no matter how much circular reasoning you throw at the issue.

As for the topic at hand, both tenant and landlord have property rights. If the tenant agrees by contract to not bring firearms into the residence, the landlord has every right to demand their removal or be evicted. If no such agreement is made, then the landlord has no right to require it unless some other right or agreement is violated (such as the tenant firing holes through the walls).

It really isn’t any more complicated than that. Don’t like the contract? Don’t sign it.

TWLP Sam:

By your reasoning, the Black Entertainment Television (BET), sushi restaurants, and bluegrass wouldn’t exist. Niche markets represent profit opportunities. It is reasonable to think that some landlords would forbid firearms, others would offer no restriction, and some might even require ownership and the knowledge to use a working gun as a condition of lease. Dominant models might emerge, but there should be plenty of room to accomodate the desires of everyone as long as property rights are respected.

Keith May 27, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Quote from Scott D:”Statements like that implicitly assert the legitimacy of intellectual property as property. Patterns and ideas can’t be owned, no matter how much circular reasoning you throw at the issue.”

All property rights are based on some sort of recognized legitimacy. Right or wrong, intellectual property is recognized as legitimate by our present government and probably by the majority of the population.

By the same token, the same government and population majority do not typically recognize the legitimacy of a landlord to restrict the use of his property by renters for such activities that are generally considered legal (e.g., owning guns, consentual adult sex, etc.).

I’m not trying to argue against the “typically libertarian” position on a landlord’s property rights, but to get comments on the reality of the situation as it occurs today.

If a landlord is allowed to legally restrict renters from having guns, then how can it be argued that he can’t restrict bibles or blacks or gays? If he can’t restrict bibles, blacks or gays, then how can he be allowed to restrict guns?

A question then for libertarians: Is it better to allow full landlord property rights for certain things (e.g., guns), while restricting it (i.e., allowing for special priviledges) for other things (e.g., religion, “race”, etc.) based on the whim of the present majority?; or should the landlord’s property rights be uniformly restricted based on what is legal for a renter to have or do at the present time?

Personally, I see little difference between the former to the later.

Mike D. May 27, 2008 at 6:38 pm

There is also the question of enforcement
In Northern California, it is virtually impossible to evict someone who knows how the law works without giving 30 days notice and going to court.
My wife allowed someone to live in our house for free in return for helping to clean the place out. There was not written contract. Needless to say, the only thing that was cleaned out was the liquor cabinet! When she was asked to leave, she refused. The local sheriff provided no assistance in enforcing the law. I ended up having to hire an attorney who specializes in eviction. It took 45 days and $2,500 to evict this person.

Ron May 27, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Scott D: “I’m not trying to argue against the “typically libertarian” position on a landlord’s property rights, but to get comments on the reality of the situation as it occurs today.”

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that the rights of landlords are restricted by numerous laws that libertarians consider illegitimate. From this viewpoint, it serves no useful purpose to start from a point of illegitimacy and then attempt to justify its existence. Any property owner has the right to use or dispose of his or her property in any manner he or she chooses. By forcing the landlord to accept any renter (gays, blacks, jews, people with dogs, or people who eat cheese) or any item (bibles, guns, tactical nuclear weapons, or silly putty) regardless of his or her willingness to do so is a violation of that right.

Therefore, no libertarian would argue that a landlord couldn’t restrict the possession of guns on his or her property, nor would they argue that they couldn’t restrict bibles, blacks, or cheese-eaters. While we may not agree with the landlord’s choice of restrictions, the fact is that such restrictions are really self-imposed restrictions on the landlord himself. By restricting certain individuals from his property, he voluntarily limits his customer base, for which he will pay in the form of lost profits. Free markets tend to discourage discrimination for this very reason.

TLWP Sam May 28, 2008 at 1:04 am

On the other hand, if a landlord has many rental apartments he might find it profitable to discriminate – if most of the existing customer threaten to leave if the landlord permits certain ‘undesirables’

Ron May 28, 2008 at 8:06 am

TLWP Sam: “On the other hand, if a landlord has many rental apartments he might find it profitable to discriminate – if most of the existing customer threaten to leave if the landlord permits certain ‘undesirables’”

That is certainly a possibility. In fact, it already happens all the time, at nearly every apartment complex in the country. Landlords discriminate against renters with bad credit, poor rental history, criminal backgrounds, age, etc. I live in Maryland, and you can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting an age-restricted apartment or townhome community.

It’s certainly possible that some racist may choose to build or buy an apartment building and rent only to blacks. But the self-limiting nature of the landlord’s prejudices extends beyond just the obvious point of keeping one group out. You can’t assume that keeping out 100% of the whites would mean 100% of the blacks would want to live there. In all likelihood there would be many blacks who were offended by such discrimination, and would therefore choose to rent elsewhere.

magnus May 28, 2008 at 8:53 am

The local sheriff provided no assistance in enforcing the law. I ended up having to hire an attorney who specializes in eviction. It took 45 days and $2,500 to evict this person.

It’s insane, isn’t it? Government courts and their enforcers are grossly inefficient and wasteful. They are subject to the Calculation Problem as much as everyone else — since government courts have no paying customers, they have no means of knowing how to spend their time and money to best serve the people who use them.

So, instead of serving the interests of paying customers, they end up being run in a way that serves the interests of (a) politics and (b) the administrative convenience of the court employees.

Count yourself lucky. Your experience was, compared to some other horror stories I have encountered, relatively positive.

yur evil November 12, 2008 at 5:45 pm

actually you are the one who needs to educate your self on renters rights, and how most standard rental agreements in most states indicate that the property rented is treated as thier property for purposes of rights within your home. yepppppppeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrsssssss

michelle January 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Is there an actual law in California that gives a landlord the right to ask a tenant not to have a weapon? Where can I find it? I am a landlord that does not want tenants to have weapons on my property.

Ben Miner May 7, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Responding to michelle here. (though I don’t think it will ever be read). Unless you are going to provide 24/7 security for your renter then it is wrong for you to deny them legal tools for self-defense. You MAY be legally in the right to do it, and it’s OK to ask, but it’s morally reprehensible to force that on somebody in their own home unless you are going to guarantee their safety. Besides, how would you know? You can’t just go searching through their belongings whenever you want to. Might I suggest a background and reference check instead?

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