Boycott Shell? Probably Not

by Charles C. W. Cooke

This story is doing the rounds, and has prompted a good number of “Boycott Shell!” calls. From the Nashua Telegraph:

When Shannon “Bear” Cothran was threatened by a knife-wielding robber on Monday morning, he didn’t think twice about what to do.

Cothran, who was working after midnight at the Shell gas station at 301 Main St. in Nashua, pulled out his Ruger LCP .380 handgun.

The robber turned and walked out the door, and Cothran called the police, bringing a swift end to the robbery attempt.

Cothran believes his decision to carry a firearm might have saved his life Monday morning. But the owners of the gas station took a different view.

Cothran says he was fired only a few hours later for violating a company policy that forbids store clerks from carrying guns.

Structurally at least, this strikes me as the perfect outcome for advocates of liberty. The Second Amendment, which codifies a negative right that protects the citizenry from the government, ensured that Cothran was not prosecuted for defending himself; and his employer, which should be allowed to set the rules in its own store, fired him for breaching those rules — which it was entitled to do. As Cothran said, he was not forced to work in the gas station (which does change the equation, I think):

“I can find another job,” he said. “A paycheck’s a paycheck. I don’t really care where it comes from. I cannot justify in my mind trying to save my job at the risk of not ever seeing my family and friends again.”

I have seen people saying that the behavior of the employer was outrageous because Cothran has a “Second Amendment” right to bear arms. This is true, but it misses the point in the same way as do people who say that they should face no private consequences for their speech. If you start shouting and screaming at your boss, there is nothing that the government can do about it because you are protected by the First Amendment. But your boss can fire you for doing so. Certainly, this case raises the question of whether it is good practice for employers to prevent their employees from carrying guns at work. This depends on the case. But it doesn’t change the basic fact that property rights are more important than pretty much everything else, and that employers should be allowed considerable latitude to set their own rules. On this one, I’m pretty much on all sides: The employer was within its rights to fire the employee and its right to do so should be protected; the Second Amendment is a beautiful thing that recognizes a basic human right; and I understand why people are angry that the employer has decided to leave its employees defenseless in what can be a dangerous job.

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