Monday, May 17, 2010

Feel Safer With Politicians Controlling Guns?

COLUMN NOTES: I received quite a few thoughtful responses to this column and most of them were specifically related to the property rights aspect of it all. I'm still thinking it all through but continuing to wonder about such property that is movable, like a car, and how the property rights inherent in that relates to the property rights of land in which the car sits on, such as a parking lot. This may rate a follow up column.

HARBESON: Government and gun control

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

>>SOUTHERN INDIANA — Here’s a shocker: Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan and I actually had the same thought once. I realized this when I heard his reaction at a city council meeting discussing changes to the employee handbook.

Expressing irritation about a new state law, HEA 1065, that lets employees keep guns in their cars while at work, he said, “I don’t think there’s any reason for anyone to bring firearms to work. We don’t need that.”

I expressed similar irritation in December 2008, when Galligan brought firearms with him to work. That’s when Galligan acted without any authorization from others and staged a little coup at Environmental Management Corp. by terminating a contract with that company.

After I saw photos in the newspaper, I wondered if the employees of that business felt threatened when he came bounding in accompanied by police officers with guns. I remember thinking, “I don’t think there’s any reason for the mayor to bring firearms to work. We don’t need that.”

I was upset about this aggressive act and its implied threat of violence upon those employees. My only consolation was that at least it gave the local community at large a very clear example of what I mean when I say government is force.

Now, although we said nearly the same words, I doubt we share the same philosophy about gun ownership. Just knowing Galligan doesn’t like this law made me interested enough to investigate it so here are some thoughts about HEA 1065.

First, the law merely says that businesses must allow employees to keep a gun in their car. The gun must be in the glove compartment, or otherwise concealed, in a locked car or locked in the trunk. So I’m not sure why Galligan thinks it’s so horrible.

Interestingly, some businesses are also against it and complain that politicians have passed another law telling them what they can and cannot do. Normally I completely sympathize with this argument.

However, as explained above, the law protects the individual’s right to store her gun, which is her property, inside her locked car, also her property. If someone cannot do this while her car is parked at work, what does that say about an individual’s private property rights? Is her car and all of its contents her property or not? Therefore, as far as I can tell, this law requires business owners to do nothing but leave gun owners alone.

Others against this law seem to assume that someone who stores a gun in their car while at work is only doing so in direct relation to work. However, there are other practical reasons for doing so.

For example, an individual may want a gun specifically for protection at home but, being a responsible gun owner, she often goes to a shooting range for instruction and practice. And, just like the gym, perhaps it’s convenient to go before or after work, so it certainly makes sense to take the gun with her.

Now, although there are good points, I do see the usual problems that occur when politicians create laws. For example, HEA 1065 contains exceptions for certain types of businesses, which means not all individuals have the same rights.

Finally, a deeper philosophical issue is that such laws lead us to believe that government granted permission is the same thing as individual freedom. But all these laws really do is give politicians power over the ownership, storage and proper use of guns, as if they always know what’s best and always make wise decisions.

But all we have to do is simply look at what Galligan did and said to understand something isn’t quite right about governments controlling guns.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is glad there are no laws against someone shooting her mouth off.


  1. This is part of the larger issue that I have discussed several times. Your property remains your property even if someone else allows you to bring your property onto their property. Their property rights then end where your property begins; there is no overlap. Your property is a bubble of your property that exists surrounded by their property. If someone is not willing to recognize the property rights of others, they have no obligation to open their property to others.

  2. Kent, when I was writing this column I wondered what your viewpoint might be. And actually it made me think more about your bubble theory. I'm still working on coming to a conclusion about it but it makes more sense to me now than when I first heard about it.

  3. That is the subject that has gotten the most negative reaction of anything I have ever said. And that's saying something. Yet, each time I reconsider it, using arguments others have made, it holds up in my mind. Without it I find personal property rights to be meaningless (which many people claim is the point).