While much attention is paid to the erosion of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, too little attention, if any, is paid to the concept of private property rights in connection with that Second Amendment right.
Gun owners take it for granted they have a private property right in their firearms.
When it comes to firearms, no American should take anything for granted and that fact extends to the notion of a property right interest in one’s firearms.
But, what is a ‘property right interest’? The notion of ‘private property’ is a fixture of a capitalist society. The notion of ‘private property’ does not exist in a communist society. And the notion has limited application in a socialist society.
The words, ‘private property,’ mean, in law, ‘exclusive ownership’ and ‘absolute control’ over property.
With firearms, the notion of ‘private property’ is all too often strained.
In New York, for example, a gun owner does not have the ability to transfer his or her firearms to whomever the gun owner wants, whenever the gun owner wants.
A New York resident cannot transfer his or her firearms to another New York resident – even next of kin – unless that person is eligible to receive firearms. And firearms defined as ‘assault weapons’ in New York, cannot be transferred to another New York resident at all unless that resident is also a licensed New York gun dealer. How many New York residents do you suppose are licensed gun dealers? Not many, to be sure. So, a gun owner may have exclusive ownership in his or her firearms – at least to the extent that the State of New York deigns to allow one to continue to own and possess firearms – but the New York gun owner does not have and never has had absolute control over them. State law governs the manner in which guns are kept and used by the owner, and the gun owner’s ability to transfer a firearm to another person is tightly controlled by the Government.