Rights and reasoning from first principles

I think both sides need to go back to the drawing table

I just saw a video that left me in a bit of a quandary. Unfortunately, it’s embedded in a Facebook post, so I’ll just have to link to it here rather than display it. The premise is simple enough. Kroger apparently permits open carry of firearms, at least in jurisdictions where that is legal. Upset gun control advocates would like Kroger to stop this practice.

Fair enough on its face. People want things to be different. They’re exercising their right to free speech to put pressure on the company. Fine.

Here’s what gets me though.

Kroger is a “private” business that serves the general public. In some jurisdictions, the general public is, by law, permitted to openly carry firearms, even “scary assault-looking” firearms. Some people, presumably on the left, want this private business to infringe on a right.

At the same time, some bakeries, private businesses that serve the general public, would like the freedom to discriminate against the LGBT population by refusing some or all service. Some people, generally on the left, want those private businesses to not infringe on a right.

Meanwhile, on the right side of the aisle, some folks want a private business that serves the general public to permit the exercise of one right, open carry (where legally permitted), but wants to reserve the right to to discriminate.

There’s a weird conflation of public, private, and rights going on here, and it’s entirely inconsistent on both sides. Either a private business must respect the rights of the general public over those of its owners/investors/preferred patrons because, after all, it’s the general public that pays for all that lovely infrastructure, but for which there would be no Kroger or bakery or what have you. In which case, bakeries, no matter who runs ’em, must necessarily serve up the gay cake, so to speak, and Kroger (and Albertsons and Safeway, for that matter) must permit open carry.

Or the argument that the public has a prevailing interest due to the generalized nature of who pays for the infrastructure (for instance) doesn’t hold and gun control folks win on open carry in stores. But if that’s the case, I think we open ourselves up to not just anti-LGBT discrimination when it comes to cake, or the ever-so-gauche idea of pizza-catered gay weddings, but also to a whole range of pre-civil rights era abuses. Whites-only water fountains, anyone?

15 replies »

  1. Excellent Frank. The positions of both sides are absolutely rife with hypocrisy. The left a little less so, but not much.

  2. i see no inconsistencies i believe in gun rights and the rights of stores to decide who their customers are. what is more important is, the only person in the eyes of the law responsible for your safety and life is you. now if a private retail store does not want guns on their premises then they have to take on the responsibility for protecting their customers and if they are hurt it is their responsibility for their safety while in their establishments. i believe in freedom and less centralization of government. i think open carry is stupid but i respect their decisions just like i do for a lot of people views, pro or con. the constitution is there to protect the minorities from the majority. that is what the second amendment is all about. the right of people to be different. real development comes from individuals not cookie cutter people. society should want diversification, that is where progress is. as long as you are not hurting someone else what you do to yourself is your business and no one else. someone that is open carrying is not out to cause trouble because they are attracting attention. criminals do not want to be noticed.

  3. Baking a cake does not say you adhere to the beliefs of the person you are baking a cake for. The person has come into your store for the service you provide. People going into a grocery store can have any beliefs they want and you sell them food. You provide the service you are in business to provide. If a person who believes in nudism or a person who believes in open carry arms comes in, you serve them. However if a nudist wants to come into your store nude or a open-carry proponent wants to comes in bearing arms you do not have to serve them. And if you do allow them to, others have the right to shop elsewhere.

  4. I have to be honest. The most interesting thing about blogging for, then commenting at, S&R is what I’ve learned about how people of average intelligence actually think from reading comment strings and seeing what they absorb from an argument. And it terrifies me. These last two comments are as jumbled as the inside or an RV that has rolled down a mountain.

    There’s a Churchhill quote to the effect that if you want to lose faith in democracy, spend 5 minutes with the average voter. Sheesh.

    • This is typically why, after I post something, I rarely engage. I just don’t usually see the point. For the moment, I’ll make an exception since we can use our other two commenters (and with gratitude for their comments) for their examples.

      In Mr. Frewin’s case, I assume he typed the two following statements with a completely straight face:

      1) “the rights of stores to decide who their customers are.”

      2) “the constitution is there to protect the minorities from the majority.”

      I hope Mr. Frewin is aware that, given the context, most Americans are Christian of one sort or another. 83% according to this poll:

      I would also hope he’s aware of these statistics:

      “Based on the 2013 NHIS data [collected in 2013 from 34,557 adults aged 18 and over], 96.6% of adults identified as straight, 1.6% identified as gay or lesbian, and 0.7% identified as bisexual. The remaining 1.1% of adults identified as “something else[]” [0.2%,] stated “I don’t know the answer[]” [0.4%] or refused to provide an answer [0.6%].”

      So, if the constitution is there to protect the minorities, how do so-called Christian store owners get to discriminate against LGBT customers?

      As to michele7307, she (I think) starts out strong, and we agree up to that point. Then the apples and oranges cart tips over when she compares public nudity to open carry. Insofar as the post is concerned, I only expressly addressed open carry in jurisdictions where it is legal, as doing so in other jurisdictions would be the height of folly. Last I checked, there aren’t any public shopping districts where both public nudity and open carry are both legal, so the comparison she makes falls apart. As to whether shopkeepers have to serve someone, her conclusion just doesn’t follow from anything stated.

      I look forward to their responses, if with some trepidation.

      • 1) “the rights of stores to decide who their customers are.”

        We had this conversation a long time ago, about a lunch counter in Greensboro.

  5. Personally, I think we’ve reached a point where for most people there is choice (unlike the 60’s,) and I think people should be able to serve (or not serve) whoever they darn well please. If Granny doesn’t want to bake a cake with a penis on it (the example du jour here in Indiana,) she shouldn’t have to, (although watching “Say Yes to the Dress” I strongly suspect she’d be making that for some nouveau riche Southern redneck’s cake instead of some gay person, but never mind.) If it were me, stores would have the right to refuse service to anyone, unless they were a de facto monopoly due to location.

    But that aint the law. And if it’s illegal to refuse to serve one legal minority, then it’s illegal to refuse to serve all legal minorities, and making up weird examples about nude people with guns (who presumably want to order a wedding cake with a penis on it) doesn’t push the argument forward.

    And yes, Michele starts out coherently, but if you notice, so do most muddled thinkers. It’s the second sentence where they leave the rails behind and start chugging cross-country.

    • I’m quite familiar with that off-rail territory myself, so I can only fault someone else but so much. I’m working on that, though 🙂

      I’m still torn on whether or not we’ve arrived at the point where the option to serve (barring a patron being immediately in violation of law) should exist. On the other hand, I kind of get where the people who stand on religion (or principle du jour) are coming from. I might think they’re wrong-headed in a million ways, but they think they’re correct, which leaves them feeling like they’re on the losing end of Big Gubmint telling them what they have to do when it runs afoul of their consciences. To the extent that I use the infrastructure/commons argument, I’m essentially suggesting that if they don’t like it, they don’t need to run businesses. And I feel like that might actually pose an undue obstacle to their participation in commerce in a way analogous to literacy tests and Voter ID laws imposing undue obstacles to voting. I don’t see any simple answer that will resolve it amicably in the near future, so I just hope that maybe the next gen will be better at figuring it out. Of course, then I remember rape culture statistics, realize that the next gen isn’t inherently more moral by and large, and retreat into my borderline misanthropy just that much more.

      Maybe a solution would be to butt one right up against the other. Maybe our most retrograde elements might be forced to serve whomever, so why not exercise free speech in retaliation? A clearly written sign (okay, I stretch the bounds of plausibility given the group I’m thinking of) that says, “We might be forced to serve you, but if you’re ______ we’d really rather you take your business elsewhere. Why would you want to give us your money anyway?” would go far to alienating exactly who they mean to, as well as a great many others. Those pissed off non-patrons could indeed take their custom elsewhere, perhaps to a shop with a sign that reads, “If you’re a bigot of any stripe, we’d rather see you in stocks than serve you, but we’ll serve you anyway.” Big Business, in the meantime, cynical picker of wallets that it is, sees only green and welcomes all, leaving all those mom n’ pops to bicker endlessly.

  6. this is one of those situations that “the market” would take care of pretty quickly. it didn’t in greensboro because the dominant elite had rigged the micro-market, but that’s harder to do these days.

  7. Nicely posed conundrum Frank. My view as a gun owning 2A proponent is that this conflates global rights with parochial privilege. The fact that some jurisdictions _allow_ open carry in no way gives it the same status as a nationally recognized civil right.

    The Molon Labe crowd may scream “SHALL NOT BE ABRIDGED!!!” but 200 plus years of legal precedent clearly proves them wrong. Why else aren’t they trying this form of douchebaggery in airports, courthouses, federal buildings, etc?

    Clearly the retail establishment’s choice to forbid it unless specifically prohibited by law and Costco and Starbucks come immediately to mind as examples. I carry every day, quietly and concealed and see no need to ram my personal choice down others throats.

    The other problem with public open carry of centerfire rifles, besides it being generally obnoxious, is that they’re are a horrible choice for self defense in a crowded venue. In the statistically nil chance that one might actually need to use it, the probability of over penetration and ricochet hurting innocents are significant.

    And Otherwise, you poor poor dear. Life must be very disappointing living amongst the Morlocks 8^)

    Thanks for the brain food!

  8. Sometimes yes, Frank, but for the most part it’s amusing, and means I didnt have to do much to get rich.

    • I agree with you OW, the lowest common denominator is disappointing at times but as you note, if everyone were smart we’d just be average and life would be a lot tougher. It’s a little racist to point it out though…”Ha Ha! I’m genetically gifted and you’re not, suck it bitches” .

      And in some ways intelligence is more curse than boon at least as far as happiness goes. It would be very interesting and probably disheartening to chart suicides by I.Q.

      • yes, that’s part of the magic/embarrasment of using a pseudonym on the internet. i find myself saying asshole things i’d never even hint at in real life. sorry for that one. i’m ashamed.

  9. Frank, I can’t agree more, on all points. The only conclusion I can come to about the open carry advocates we see photos of now and again with their AR’s slung “safely” pointing downward in the center of their backs is that they are only making a statement, just a poorly thought out one. As self defense goes, on top of your valid points, maybe the best they could do in a pinch is quickly(?) swing it down and around so that it’s in a horribly inaccurate hip-fire position, adding even more meat to your argument. Maybe they’ve got some kind of breakaway snaps on their slings, I dunno. What really gets me is the added potential for accidental discharge the way they carry. I learned early on that there’s no such thing as an unloaded firearm, which is rammed home as God’s honest gospel every time we hear of another cleaning accident, or a child playing with a poorly secured weapon. I don’t care how many times that responsible advocate for freedom and firepower checks the chamber, it just violates that first and foremost rule of safety.

    I’ve tried to think of a remotely plausible comparison, and the best I’ve come up with is silly, but maybe that helps. Speech (extended to various forms of expression) is another of those sacred, unlimited rights (except for all the ways it’s legitimately limited, e.g, libel/slander laws). Poi (fire spinning) is a cultural mode of expression, ergo “speech.” So maybe we should just carry our swinging balls of fire into Starbucks at lunch. What could possibly go wrong? And when someone suggests, “you might accidentally hit someone, even catch the place on fire,” we can just stamp our feet and ask why our right to free speech is being infringed.