Chris and Candace are two bartenders in their 20s who rarely have time for politics – until now that is. Once I told them their safety may be jeopardized in a big way, they suddenly started paying attention.
The news that startled them to such a degree? A significant number of Republican lawmakers here in North Carolina want to let people carry handguns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
Common sense and headlines across the country tell us that booze and loaded handguns don’t mix. A nationwide study three years ago by the University of California at Davis confirms that.
In a survey of 15,000 people, researchers found that gun owners who carry their weapons under their shirts are twice as likely as people without guns to abuse alcohol and engage in risky behavior, such as drunk driving. Binge drinking, chronic alcohol abuse and carrying a loaded firearm are common.
“It’s not surprising that risky behaviors go together,” says Garen Wintemute, author of the study and director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. “This is of particular concern given that alcohol intoxication also impairs a gun user’s accuracy as well as his judgment on whether to shoot.
Well that’s not very comforting. Not only can someone waltz in with a gun in their sock, but if they pull it out, they’re likely too buzzed aim straight, meaning your safety is in jeopardy as much as the intended targets.
Both Chris, a male, and Candace, a woman, are used to seeing drunks getting out of control. They’ve heard the loud arguments, seen fights break out and watched as the occasional late-night drunk pulls out a knife. Letting folks in with guns is a formula for disaster with deadly consequences.
“Even off-duty cops aren’t allowed in here with guns,” Candace says.
“Guns and alcohol just don’t mix,” adds Chris. “I can handle almost anything – and have – but bringing a gun in here is dangerous and could be deadly. Anyone should know that.”
So why do the bill’s four sponsors feel compelled to let North Carolina become the fifth state in the country to let folks bring concealed weapons into bars? It’s the same old paranoia. If someone else has a gun, they need one too.
“Folks have a right to protect themselves and their families,” one of them, Rep. Justin Burr, told the local daily newspaper.
He of course has his supporters. Should a scene straight out of Pulp Fiction ever occur in real life, many here feel it’s their sacred duty to respond in kind. Forget calling the cops, it’s time for a shoot out at the OK Corral Carolina style.
“How long are you supposed to sit in the corner and cower and wonder if police will arrive in time to save you and your family before said crazy shooter makes his way over to you? “ comments one online poster, known on the blogosphere only as “Iowapproach. “
Of course legislators are quick to point out that it is illegal to carry a weapon and consume alcohol. But such technicalities don’t stop people from drinking and driving. As the study from California points out, people who feel so paranoid that they have to carry a loaded weapon at all times also engage in other high risk behaviors.
“The highest levels of alcohol abuse were reported by gun owners who engaged in dangerous behavior with their weapons,” the study says. “For example, gun owners who also drove or rode in motor vehicles with loaded guns were more than four times as likely to drink and drive as were people who did not own guns. But gun owners who did not travel with loaded guns were still more than twice as likely to drink and drive as were people who did not own guns.”
Here’s a sampling of just a few news items related to guns and booze.
– An executive returning from a strip club was found in LA to be intoxicated and carrying a loaded and cocked gun on his hip at a DUI checkpoint.
– An intoxicated police officer in Dallas pulled his revolver out from his ankle holster and accidentally fired off a round.
– In North Carolina, bars in Raleigh, Wilmington, Rocky Mount and Winston-Salem have been closed by authorities because of shootings in the parking lot. Imagine the likelihood of more shootings if the social norm were to pack heat in any bar you went to.
Even Clayton Cramer, an author and noted gun enthusiast who writes a column for “Shotgun News,” agrees that allowing guns into bars isn’t very bright.
“Alcohol and guns don’t mix well together,” he writes. “Neither do alcohol and cars, alcohol and power tools, alcohol and ladders, alcohol and casual sex—you might say that alcohol doesn’t play well with others.”
As long as there are guns in our society – and 300,000 North Carolinians have concealed weapons permits – there will be violence. But why do our so-called diligent and thoughtful lawmakers wish to compound the problem?
Even if this legislation dies in committee – as such things often do – the fact that it was proposed in the first place is a disturbing revelation about the mindset of those who have wrestled their way into political power. At a time when the country has grown weary of gunfire and massacres, these folks – the four main sponsors and 16 co-sponsors – actually want to make it easier for someone to get shot.
For Candace, who makes a living serving alcohol and making sure things don’t get out of hand, the mere fact a person in authority would suggest such an idea is beyond belief.
“That’s just a stupid idea – plain and simple, just stupid,” she says. “I love my job, but I won’t risk my life for it.”
But if some of the state’s GOP has their way, she may have to.