A gun law I could support (finally realized there is one)

In my blog post yesterday, I viewed the removal of the “No Guns” signs from the Westroads Mall as a good thing, because without such signs, the mall cannot enforce a “No Guns” policy–cannot mandate defenselessness, in other words.

While I still, of course, see the rescission of the defenselessness mandate as a (tragically belated) positive step, I think I missed the point about what is really going on with the removal of the signs. War on Guns, however, did not.

They probably got a panicked call from their legal department worried about liability. If someone sues, I hope they subpoena not just the removed signs, but also any and all memos, emails, etc., ordering and discussing the removal, as well as obtain depositions from the decisions makers and those who carried out the removals.

This brings me to the gun law I would like to see. This law was proposed in, of all places, Illinois (in 2005). Someone, obviously, felt like tilting at Illinois’ anti-gun windmills. Judging by the bills’ (there were two of them–one in the House, and an identical one in the Senate) quick (and inevitable) journey to oblivion in committee, the legislators who introduced these bills had about the same chance of success as did Don Quixote.

The bills to which I refer were called the “Gun-free Zone Criminal Conduct Liability Act,” and would impose liability upon businesses and units of government (and even individuals) who mandate a gun-free zone, which is then exploited by a criminal to allow him to go about his carnage without resistance.

Here is a summary of HB0477/SB0044:

Synopsis As Introduced
Creates the Gun-free Zone Criminal Conduct Liability Act. Provides that any person, organization, or entity or any agency of government, including any unit of local government, that creates a gun-free zone is liable for all costs, attorney’s fees, and treble damages resulting from criminal conduct that occurs against an individual in the gun-free zone, if a reasonable person would believe that possession of a firearm could have helped the individual defend against such conduct. Defines “gun-free zone”. Effective immediately.

The NRA has for the last few years tried to raise support for laws that would prevent businesses from prohibiting employees from bringing guns to work (at least as far as the parking lot), and even in fairly “gun-friendly” states have found it very heavy going. As outspoken an advocate of gun rights as I am, I have some reservations about such laws–I think a very light touch needs to be employed, in terms of trying to avoid an infringement of property rights.

It seems to me that a law like the Gun-free Zone Criminal Conduct Liability Act might be a better approach, and might even be more easily passed (although not in Illinois anytime soon), because it still leaves the property owner the option of banning guns–he just assumes more risk in doing so. I do think, though, that it could be improved by borrowing a provision from the NRA-backed bills: a liability shield (for damages due to violence) for the property owner or government agency that does not ban guns.

Some, even among the gun rights advocacy community, will see even this as going too far. That is a position I can respect, because I’m not particularly enthusiastic about placing less than 100% of the responsibility for violent crime on the criminal scum who commits it. Still, for me, the bottom line is that in depriving a person an effective means of self-defense, one assumes the responsibility to provide an effective defense for him. I believe that a failure to do so should carry a cost.

As things stand today, it’s the victims who bear that cost. That is wrong.

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