KSSZ - The Eagle 93.9
The Holster Pariahs
by Adam Shahid
©2003 Adam Shahid. All rights reserved.
Permission given by author to freely duplicate and distribute.
Missouri recently passed a law that allows qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. While the libertarian in me is insulted that a person would need a permit to protect oneself, the gun owner in me is ecstatic. Conceal carry was the very reason I became a libertarian in the first place. If it wasn't for Missouri and its ban on citizens carrying concealed weapons, I wouldn't be the libertarian marketeer that's a growing thorn in the sides of those who seek to stifle our liberties.
So, I took the necessary training course and am eagerly awaiting the court battle started in St. Louis to be resolved. I'm confident that, eventually, the concealed carry law will be found to be in line with the Missouri constitution. As soon the injunction is lifted, I'm going to apply for my permit. Barring this temporary inconvenience, everything is going along nicely…right?
A few days ago I noticed my first "No guns allowed" sign on a local business. The new concealed carry law allows for private property holders (i.e. businesses and residences, etc.) to post a sign being a "minimum size of eleven inches by fourteen inches with the writing thereon in letters of not less than one inch" if they want to bar gun owners from being armed while on their premises. At first I was annoyed by it, realizing that I'd have to boycott yet another business. Though upon reflection, I realized something deeper, more profound. I realized I was having a taste of what it is like to be discriminated against due to ignorance. I thought of the civil rights movement, and what those who fought for equality must have felt. I could never relate to it before, and even though what I felt must have been a mere fraction of what minorities have experienced in the past, that fraction was enough to produce understanding. "No guns allowed" reads to me as "No gun owners allowed". Wait a minute… I'm a gun owner… They don't want ME in there! What have I ever done to them? Isn't my money as good as anyone else's? They don't want me in there simply because of my… beliefs. "No guns allowed" means…"We don't want your kind here."
I can't help who I am. I believe in the principles of firearm ownership. I believe that a weapon on one's side symbolizes freedom, and more importantly—responsibility. I believe that the right to self defense, against individual attacker or government, is fundamental and inalienable. These are my beliefs… they are a part of who I am, just as any religion is a part of the devout. If a business doesn't want gun owners on their premises, that implies we are somehow irresponsible, and that our beliefs are not worthy of respect… or worse, that we do not deserve to be so free. Of course, it is a private property owner's right to do whatever they wish with their property, and associate with whomever they wish. If they don't want people like me on their premises, I can do nothing but respect their wishes. Of course, I'm more than willing to take my business to those who do respect me for who I am. The market will deal with those who discriminate out of ignorance.
Fortunately, in most cases the solution is to eliminate the ignorance of the person posting the "No guns allowed" sign. This can by done by pointing out how such signs make a business a "please rob me" target, and serve to increase the risk of financial and physical harm to both the owner and their customers. Another way is to simply get to know the business owner, and when they post a sign, politely inform them that you've been a loyal customer and have never posed any risk to them in the past. If they no longer want you as a customer, you'll understand. Similarly, if it is a business you're not very familiar with; you can simply show them a receipt from a competing business and explain why you shopped at the competition instead of their business. Usually, self-interest will win out, and the business owner will take the sign down. There will be a few cases where a proprietor is philosophically set against gun owners on their premises. For such cases, there is little one can do besides shop elsewhere. Their loss is the competition's gain.
For now, I'll do what I can to help ease the fears that some business owners have against those of us who carry weapons peacefully. I have no doubt that there will be some signs that will never come down, though I am optimistic that most will. Unfounded discrimination against gun owners is very real, and it will take a lot of work to regain acceptance. I am, however, hopeful that one day I'll notice businesses proudly displaying a new sign…"Gun owners welcomed here."
Adam Shahid is a Ph.D student at the University of Missouri, and is an active member of the Libertarian Party, and the MU Campus Libertarians. Check out his weblog, or the MU Campus Libertarians' website.
Previous Columns from Adam Shahid
"Greed of Compassion" - Auguest 21, 2003
"Greed of Morality" - September 29, 2003