The right to bear arms is always important, but it has begun to feel even more important of late. A lot of people are worried right now, and having some reliable weapons can do great things for security and peace of mind. The thing is, not everyone has an equal right to bear arms. You might be ready, but the truth is that people who rent (apartments, houses, condos or otherwise) sometimes have clauses in their leases that ban firearms. Is that legal?
The first step to understanding your rights is to know how the 2nd Amendment applies to citizens. While it absolutely gives you important protection, it’s not foolproof — even when applied as the founders intended.
Here’s the bulk of the protection. No private party has the authority to tell you that you can’t own a gun. Only the government can revoke your right to firearm ownership, and even those limits are regularly contested (although we pretty much all agree that felons can be stripped of fundamental rights). So, no matter what any landlord or other private party tells you, you have the right to own a gun. Period.
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. The right to own a gun is not identical to the right to carry or store a gun. On this front, property owners have rights, and they can prohibit people from carrying guns on their property. Think of it this way. If you own a home, you can tell someone they aren’t allowed in unless they relinquish the gun on their hip. You have that right, and thus, landlords have a similar right in regards to renters.
Whether or not a landlord can ban tenants from keeping guns on the property depends mostly on two things. The first is the state. Texas, for instance, has legislation that strips landlords of this authority. All renters in Texas have the right to keep guns on the premises (provided they have the right to own a gun in the first place).
In states where a landlord can prohibit firearms, they are still limited. That prohibition has to be spelled out in the lease. If you sign a lease that doesn’t mention firearms, the landlord can’t change their mind later. They would have to get you to sign a new lease with that provision. On the other hand, if it is in the lease and you signed the contract, then you’re legally obligated to keep up your end of the deal.
Things can still get grayer. Even if firearm prohibition is in a lease, landlords have no right to search your stuff. If they feel the need to search for something, they have to go through law enforcement. That means that they cannot evict you for having a firearm unless they see it, and if they unlawfully search your space, you have some level of recourse.
Now, no one is telling you to risk eviction over contractually banned weapons. That’s between you and your landlord. But, if firearms are not expressly banned in your lease, your best bet is to make sure they don’t see it. Some landlords won’t care. Others will be bothered and try to go after your weapon. It’s an unnecessary headache. So, the best policy for renters and their firearms is don’t ask, don’t tell. Of course, you should absolutely read your lease so you know where you stand.