Tag Archives: gun violence

Why Property Rights Matter

Guns for sale are seen inside of Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, February 28, 2018. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

(National ReviewThe stores stopped selling firearms to people under 21 after the Parkland shooting.A 20-year-old is hitting Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart with lawsuits accusing them of discriminating against him based on age.

The stores stated they would no longer sell guns to customers under 21 after a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day at a Parkland, Fla. school.

Tyler Watson has filed two lawsuits after he was not allowed to buy a rifle from either store. Dick’s refused to sell the Oregon man a .22-caliber Ruger rifle on February 24, and Walmart would not sell him a firearm on March 3. Oregon law allows people 18 and older to buy guns.

I wondered how long it would be before someone sued WalMart or Dick’s Sporting Goods. Now I know.
Orthodox moral teaching supports a right to private property. As an extension of that right, some retailers have decided to respond to recent school shootings by restricting sales of firearms. Whether this plan will have any effect on gun violence remains to be seen.
But like an individual, a corporation has a moral right–and indeed obligation–to control their property as their conscience dictates.
For good and understandable reasons, US state and federal law don’t allow businesses to deny services to customers who are legally allowed to use their services. So under most circumstances, a restaurant must serve any customer who wants a meal and a hotel rent a room to any who ask.
The intention behind these laws is to prevent discrimination. A good and noble goal to be sure.
But over time, laws tend to take on a life of their own. Now not only are merchants being obligated to violate their conscience as part of the cost of participating in the market. Rather than allowing the racist business owner to go out of business, the law has the perverse effect of keeping the business open and so limiting the market for more morally upright businesses.
In the current lawsuit, businesses are at risk of losing the right to solve a problem that, arguably, they have at least a small role in creating by selling guns to all purchasers.
If, however, businesses had more freedom to serve or not serve customers as they saw fit, then there is at least a chance that gun violence could be curtailed by responsible business owners not selling to those who seem to be a threat to self or others. Yes, this might mean as well that the racist business owner wouldn’t sell to ethnic minorities or secular progressive business owners refuse service to Christians (and before you ask, yes, it happens. I know because I have been denied service because I’m a priest).
The question though is this: On a day-to-day level, who is the best guardian of the peace? Orthodox social thought would suggest it is the person or companies closest to the problem.
In Christ,
+Fr Gregory