When Republicans Forget Your Rights

Gun rights are not the only essential liberty.

A few weeks back, an unfortunate incident took place in the streets near private Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington:

On the night of October 24, students Erik Fagan and Daniel McIntosh were in their apartment when there was a knock on the door. Fagan told CNN affiliate KXLY in Spokane that he opened the door and a stranger, who said he'd just gotten out of jail, asked for $15. Fagan told KXLY he offered the man a blanket and a can of food, but "didn't feel comfortable" giving the man money because he was a stranger.

"My gut instinct was telling me I wasn't going to be able to get that door closed before he came through," Fagan told KXLY.

As the man started coming through the door, Fagan said, he yelled for his roommate, Daniel McIntosh.

This could have ended very badly for Mr. Fagan; indeed, we read every day of people who don't survive such encounters.  Mr. Fagan's story turned out better than many:

McIntosh said he came to the door with his pistol drawn, and the students said the man turned and ran away... A short while after the incident, police captured the man, whom they identified as a six-time convicted felon.

So far, so good: an honest citizen drives away a marauding thug, who is arrested and sent back to prison from whence he never should have been released.

But the story doesn't end there:

At about 2 a.m., campus security officers returned to Fagan and McIntosh's apartment and confiscated a pistol and a shotgun from the apartment...

In a disciplinary board hearing on Friday, the board, made up of three faculty members and two students, found Fagan and McIntosh guilty of two infractions -- possessing weapons on school grounds and putting others in danger by the use of weapons, according to Chuang.

Chuang told CNN the students expect to hear later this week what disciplinary action will be taken by the board. Fagan and McIntosh both face suspension or expulsion. Both are seniors and have exemplary records, Chuang said.

Now we head off into liberal la-la land.  Fagan never even touched a gun; McIntosh saved him from a thug through showing his firearm without using it.  The only person endangered by the gun was the felon.  Isn't that what guns are for?

The weapons were legal and no law was broken; the Spokane police are taking no action against these two model citizens.  But the university can't let it alone; these two young men are being persecuted for violating the liberal shibboleth against private self-defense.

A number of conservative pundits are raising the predictable stink, pointing out the violation of Second Amendment rights to bear arms, not to mention the fundamental human right of self-defense involved.  One prominent radio host even suggested that congressional Republicans should introduce a bill making it illegal for institutions of higher education to restrict the legal second-amendment rights of their students.

Alas, passing this law would fall right into the liberal trap, and would end with fewer rights for all of us.

My Rights and Your Nose

The problem is, Fagan and McIntosh were dwelling in apartments owned by Gonzaga University, which has an established code-of-conduct policy banning weapons from all university-owned property.  Both Fagan and McIntosh signed off on this when they became students.  The university never attempted to hide it; it's prominently posted on its website for anyone to read.  Whoever wrote it even went to the trouble to specify that the weapons ban, in particular, applies to "any location on campus, or within University residences."  Presumably Fagan and McIntosh knew that's where they were living, after all, that's who they had to make the rent check out to!

There are a great many public colleges which try to ban guns and lots of other things.  They are arms of the government and therefore have no authority to violate students' rights that way.  Gonzaga University is different: it is a private institution with no connection to government at all.

Why does this matter?  Let's look at it this way: do you have the right to ask people not to bring guns into your home?  If a prospective guest shows up packing heat, are you violating their Second Amendment rights if you send them packing in their turn?

You may say you'd never do that, and that's fine.  We all know, however, that there are many people who don't personally like guns.  Does the Second Amendment allow other people to inflict guns on them in their own homes?  Surely not, or the whole concept of "private" property is dead.

Here's another perspective: How about those annoying Mormons who knock on your door?  Are you violating the First Amendment if you tell them to go away and get off your lawn?  Of course not - they have the right to try to speak to you, and you have the right to tell them to get lost.

The police do not have the right to tell the Mormons to get lost.  If the Mormons want to pontificate about Joseph Smith and the Angel Moroni from a public streetcorner, no government authority should be able to shut them up.  The First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech apply, and all of American law and tradition argues in their favor.

On private property, however, the Constitution has no effect, nor should it.  You don't meet proseletyzing Mormons in the mall because a shopping mall is private property, and virtually all malls ban solicitation of any kind.  The mall security staff would ask the Mormons to shut up or leave, and if they won't comply, the police can arrest them for trespassing.  The private property aspect makes all the difference in the world.

Protection For All, But Especially Conservatives

As conservatives, we should think long and hard before inviting the government to interfere in the operation of private property.  Don't we have enough problems with bureaucrats telling us what we can and can't do with our own land?  Is it really a good idea now to ask the government to dictate what other people may do on our own land even if we don't want them to?

We've written many times about the devastating effects of going down this road.  The far-left elites who mostly control government are already using this approach to force private organizations to have dealings with homosexuals, even when those organizations and individuals devoutly hold homosexuality to be a sin.

Conservatives like guns and want to be allowed to use them; well and good.  That doesn't give us the right to force our views onto the private property of others who disagree, no matter how inconvenient or even dangerous it may seem.

In breaking the publicly-proclaimed rules of the university they voluntarily chose to attend, Fagan and McIntosh did wrong - no, not a crime, but a wrong all the same.  You'd ask a guest who treated you that way to leave your house, and Gonzaga University has every right to ask Fagan and McIntosh to as well.  As conservatives who respect the right to private property, we support the university in this.

We should also support the right of students to pick universities that choose not to infringe their rights.  In fact, we'd strongly suggest that other conservative potential attendees of Gonzaga reconsider and go elsewhere.  Hit 'em hard enough in the pocketbook and maybe that bastion of liberal elitism will change their ways.

But if not, using the force of law to cram our preferences down their throats is just as wrong as what the left does every day - because it's the exact same thing.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Law.
Reader Comments

As an avid gun user and enthusiast, I completely agree. Conservatism is, first and foremost, about property rights. Interestingly enough, I've known pro-choice conservatives who make the same argument and, while I disagree, I can understand their argument.

November 19, 2013 12:28 PM

So where is the line in the constitution or bill of rights that places "property rights" above the right of self defense? I can't find it.

And is this really an issue of private property? Additionally what does state law say about the right of residence. The fact that when you accept rent you surrender many property rights to the renting tenant.

I'm not from WA and don't know the laws there, but since this event occurred I've seen it cited that a landlord cannot deny possession of firearms to a tenant.

November 19, 2013 12:53 PM


Whoever cited that is wrong. Your tenant might fight you on it, but you can definitely restrict firearms ownership inside your property. Read this:


As the article says, it's a state issue. Minnesota appears to have enacted a law restricting landlords, but I haven't heard of any others.

The 2nd amendment is about what the *government* is restricted from doing, not private individuals. Private citizens can restrict gun rights (within the areas they own) all they want.

If you come to my house wearing a gun, I can kick you out or demand you remove it and be 100% within my rights.

(I wouldn't do that, feel free come to loaded! :-)

November 19, 2013 1:00 PM

I think the confusion here is based on the sanction. The two renters are facing NO legal sanction whatsoever: they broke no laws, the police have no issues with them.

They are instead facing a private sanction: the university has asked them to leave because they violated university policies. No laws are involved, and universities are allowed to create whatever policies they wish.

It has to be that way: think about religious colleges that believe all sorts of things are sins which are not illegal. Dancing, drinking, sex, women wearing pants, etc. If a religious college can't expel people who won't follow the rules of their religion (even though not illegal), then it isn't possible for them to exercise their religion.

Just because something isn't illegal doesn't mean you have to allow it on your private property. There's all sorts of examples. How about if you have a guest at your home (over 21) who gets drunk and throws up on your carpet? He's committed no crime, but you still have the right to call a cab and ask him to leave, don't you?

November 19, 2013 1:20 PM
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