Close window  |  View original article

When Republicans Forget Your Rights

Gun rights are not the only essential liberty.

By Petrarch  |  November 19, 2013

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.