Thereâ€™s a certain amount of libertarian ambivalence about laws that force companies to allow their employees and patrons to have firearms (or other weapons) in vehicles in parking lots on private property. On the one hand, the property rights of the owner are trampled. On the other, if this is not forced, the self-defense right of the individuals are trampled. No matter what, someoneâ€™s natural rights are getting trampled. The justification for parking lot laws boils down to property rights are less important than self-defense rights.
But, thereâ€™s an interesting lawsuit thatâ€™s come out of the Aurora, CO mass shooting a few years back. Victims and family members are proceeding with a wrongful death/personal injury suit against the theater chain. Normally, Iâ€™d say this was an attempt to go after the deep pockets. But, we have been toldÂ that this theater chain was somewhat unusual in the region for posting their property, and itâ€™s suspected that the shooter chose this theater at least partially because it was posted, since the theater was not the closest to his home.
A federal judge has again refused to dismiss wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits filed against a movie theater chain by victims of a 2012 mass shooting at a Colorado cinema where 12 people were killed and dozens injured.
In general, the lawsuits claim Cinemark had lax security at its theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora when a gunman opened fired during a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The article then goes on to point out that other theaters in the chain hired security, but this theater chose not to. The theater chainâ€™s defense is that they should not have a â€œduty and burden to have foreseen and prevented the criminal equivalent of a meteor falling from the sky.â€ However, by encouraging their patrons to disarm under threat of banning from the property or other legal actions, Iâ€™d say that they have chosen to assume the â€œduty and burdenâ€ by forbidding their patrons from retaining the means of self-defense. And, at any rate, a mass murderer is not the only reason for someone to wish to have the means to defend themselves readily to hand.
In the end, this is why those signs and policies exist, because after a tragedy, people will go looking for the deepest pockets that can provide them monetary compensation. The assumption has been, until now, that the signs may not be effective against lawbreakers, but they are effective against the plaintiffâ€™s bar; that they are the equivalent of those signs you see at coat racks and in parking lots that say â€œmanagement is not responsible for theft.â€ (which is literally true, but apparently needs to be spelled out). However, today we live in a legal regime where the search for deep pockets causes the plaintiffâ€™s bar to advance the theory that if a property owner does not have a policy against the carriage of weapons, they are responsible for the actions of anyone who does carry a weapon onto the property. Which is absurd, of course.
If this lawsuit goes through, though, the property owners will be forced to take on the duty of defense of their patrons. For a variety of reasons I donâ€™t expect this lawsuit to succeed; but it points out a libertarian way of obtaining the same results as a parking lot law, without the trampling of the rights of the property owners. Pass laws that make it harder to sue the property owner for the actions of a third party on that property, a la the Protection of Lawful Commerce In Firearms Act or the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, and impose a duty to defend patrons if the property owner chooses to post their property as a â€œgun free zone.â€ Then leave it to the free market and the insurance companies to make those signs evaporateâ€¦
H/T to Saysuncle