Monday, August 12, 2013

Gun Rights versus The Rights of a Landlord

There has been much discussion in the media of late about how many Constitutional rights have been systematically infringed upon. The Patriot Act has undermined rights for over ten years now, and all the leaks about spying have thrown more fuel on that fire. The FBI has admitted flying drones over the United States airspace without warrants. DOMA was struck down as unconstitutional earlier this summer, and just this morning, a federal judge ruled that the "Stop and Frisk" policy being employed by the NYPD is unconstitutional.

There is a long and growing list of laws being challenged on the grounds of Constitutionality, and it seems like every time a law is struck down, five more are written.

One caveat that many people don't necessarily understand about Constitutional rights is that they are, for the most part, only binding upon the government. Originally written to protect citizens from federal intrusions, they extended to state (and lower governments) later on through selective incorporation and the due process clause.

Constitutional rights don't exist between citizens, only between citizens and the government. They also don't exist between private parties of any sort.

This truth is what had me shaking my head a little at a story that ran on the news last week here locally.

A man requested the help of the television news station when he was told by his landlord that weapons of any kind, including guns, were not allowed on the property. There are more and more landlords around the country instituting these types of bans, and it's entirely within their legal right to do so as long as the property is privately owned.

In this particular instance, the property was not entirely privately owned and was partially funded with public grant money, so the ban was overturned - but only because the property itself wasn't wholly private.

Landlords of privately owned lands have the right to decide what happens with their property, and have a fairly wide range of things they can prohibit possession of. They are business owners, not government institutions, and can dictate how they want their business run. For them, gun ownership is just an issue of property possession, much like animal ownership, and they have the right to refuse to lease to tenants who own those items.

If a tenant is discovered to possess weapons in violation of lease terms, that is cause for eviction and termination of the lease.

There are those who still cry foul, of course, but the reality is that gun owners don't enjoy special protections under the law like other groups do. Race, ethnicity and religion are not permitted to be used to discriminate between private citizens because they fall into a specially protected class of people. Gun owners, however, do not.

The only claim to infringement is under the Second Amendment, and that only applies when the government is involved.

There is difficulty when it comes to enforcing the bans, particularly if they are newly enacted, because they can only be applied to new lease terms. Privacy laws prohibit the landlord from entering and searching the property for the weapons as well, so it can be impossible to know who owns guns and who does not, although it usually becomes fairly obvious once Second Amendment rights are asserted.

As long as a landlord doesn't attempt to enact changes to the lease prior to the end of the current term, a private landlord can legally ban guns, can legally refuse to rent to gun owners, and can terminate the leases of those who violate the provisions.


  1. I find it ridiculous how some landlords act like that...Lords. I am a renter and there is a laundry list of things that we can't have at our home. Some are due to insurance rules, but a lot of due to the way a former tenant was. We can't have a pet because a former tenant let theirs destroy the property. We can't have a swing set or outside equipment because of a former tenant. They won't (and legally don't HAVE to) fix the dishwasher because of a former tenant. It's one of the things that makes me eager to become a homeowner, just so we can enjoy luxuries like a swing set, dishwasher or pet.

  2. It's almost like certain parts of the gov'tact like Homeowners' Associations, huh?

    This is why we actually need lawyers, smart constitutional ones.

    good post

  3. Bull. Shit. I'll have guns if I please. Step inside, and I'll show you. And THAT'S legal. ;)

  4. Really great post, Kelly. I wish people would actually read it thoroughly so that some of these arguments could be put to rest.

    I'm sure this is a difficult subject for many conservatives. On the one hand, there are people who would fight to the death for the rights of property owners and government de-regulation. And on the other, you have the gun lovers who want to be able to take their firearms wherever, whenever. Tough spot.


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