Monday, June 20, 2016

Guns and Alcohol; Bars, Nightclubs, and Private Property

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Carrying a gun in a place that serves alcohol seems a little incongruous at first. Guns and alcohol can’t mix, one might assume at first. Dangerous objects combined with the intoxicating effects of alcohol could easily lead to disaster. Yet is far more nuanced than at first glance. One might also say that alcohol and cars don’t mix either. The fact is, alcohol is not some sort of mysterious elixir that induces violence or causes irresponsibility; it only reveals what was already there.

Nevada law prohibits anyone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or has a BAC of .10 or greater, from possessing a firearm. No other laws prohibit firearms in bars, clubs, or any other establishment that serves alcohol. Rather than a blanket prohibition, the law is applied on a case-by-case basis against individuals based upon their behavior the same way DUI laws are applied.

 Millions of us routinely drive cars with blood alcohol concentrations less than the legal limit of .08 without problems. Roughly the same numbers of people (in the 10k range) are murdered by guns and killed in DUI accidents yearly. What makes cars different than people? So what makes cars different from guns and that some legislatures prohibit guns in bars, but allow alcohol in drivers? Most Americans would find it absurd that a non-intoxicated driver would be too irresponsible to drive a car after a few drinks.

If we trust citizens to drive vehicles with tolerable levels of alcohol in their systems, why wouldn’t we trust them with their guns? As everyone knows, intoxication is widely variable. One might be unsafe for the first fifteen minutes of a buzz, but fine after four beers two hours later. A small-framed young woman may become legally drunk off one drink whereas an alcoholic who is a big and tall middle-aged man shows no signs of intoxication and two or even three times the legal limit. It’s a fine line.


Everyone's body, regardless of sex or size, absorbs alcohol at a rate of .016 BAC per hour. This is the basic metabolic rate and it is uniform, based on how quickly the liver can process the alcohol and break it down into sugars. The difference is how quickly BAC rises, which is tied to sex, size, and alcoholism, which is why a petite female who seldom drinks will get drunk much faster than a fat alcoholic man. One sip or one drink does not make one a drunk or incapable of exercising good judgement. Having a drink or two does not mean you forfeit your Second Amendment rights the same way you retain your First Amendment right to free speech, all the way to the hospital or jail as the case may be. 

If one were to prevent anyone from driving a car with any measurable level of alcohol in their blood stream or banning parking lots at any place that serves alcohol, American drinkers would become apoplectic. Even with the strict laws regarding DUI, crashes still occur. People still get drunk and fight fist to fist, say nasty things to each other, and make bad decisions that result in children or STDs. We know the dangers of alcohol, yet regardless of the law or consequences, bad things happen by choice.

No Magic Numbers

Take states with 51% laws, such as Texas, where guns are excluded from establishments that derive 51% or more of their gross receipts from the sale of alcohol (generally not restaurants). 51% is the magic number that makes the establishment ‘safe’ for guns? Can’t somebody get just as wasted in a wine bar or at their table as they could if they were getting bottle service? Heaven forbid a drinker is carrying illegally. There is no magic number or set of circumstances that divide the law abiding from criminals, the drunk from the sober, or good behavior from bad.

Bar fights and bad behavior can still erupt without guns as countless news reports and anecdotes can attest. Most crimes happen when the perpetrator is sober (at least from alcohol). There have been several high profile incidents where guns have been fired, either in anger or by accident, in clubs. How often do we find out that the person in question either a, broke the law to bring the gun in, or b, wasn’t supposed to have a gun in the first place (prohibited person, no CCW, etc.)? Does a law dissuade that?

Laws do exist that give business owners and police authority to arrest or remove an armed and/or problematic patron. Trespassing. A business that prohibits firearms will likely tell the gun owner to disarm or leave the property. If that person doesn’t disarm or leave when they are told to “get out”, a trespass occurs. In Nevada, the request must be made orally or in writing. In fact, most ‘no guns’ (even ‘no skateboarding’) signs that are visible cite NRS 207.200, trespassing.

Using state law to prohibit guns in establishments that serve alcohol makes a fundamental judgement based not in fact, but in supposition, on the character of every gun owner and every drinker: that gun owners are too irresponsible to drink while carrying and drinkers are drunks who can’t be trusted with a gun. Interestingly enough, most concealed firearm permittees have a general understanding that if one is going to drink to levels of intoxication, they leave their gun behind.

Public Execution of Private Policy

If bars, clubs, and other businesses choose to exclude patrons who are armed, that is their affair. Every business has a right, within limits, to exclude anyone they want. Trespassing does not necessarily criminalize the why someone did what they did; it criminalizes the violation of private property rights that occurs when one ignores the owner’s request.

Specific statutes, like Texas’ 30-06 and 30-07 gun laws, that exclude gun owners from posted properties are an example of government executing private policies. The business owner made a choice to exclude armed citizens, the same way a private property owner can choose to do pretty much anything that’s legal with their property. That is the business owner’s choice; the government arguably shouldn’t add weight under the penalty of law to that choice.

Taken to an extreme, should governments pass a law allowing bars to limit the ideology of the patrons so a blue collar, union bar can ban Republicans and lessen the chance Debate Night turns into a barroom brawl? Such a law would be an unconscionable abuse of the First Amendment; the Second should be no different. Shoe on the other foot, a law mandating business to admit armed citizens would be a wholesale violation of private property rights.

Pointless

Also, what’s the point of such a law? Open carriers can be detected, but concealed carriers would presumably remain invisible. If they used their gun in lawful self-defense, what does it benefit society to charge them with a misdemeanor of carrying in a bar? The alternative quite possibly have been a dead innocent person and a murder trial. Or, if a bad guy uses a gun while drinking, is he really concerned about another charge on top of a felony, if not several more?

If someone is a hothead who suffers from lapses of judgement, is the kind of person who will be deterred by a law he isn’t even thinking of? And let’s say there is a law and that hothead leaves his gun in the car. What stops him from going outside to get it? Suddenly, you have a victim faced with a gun and no defense other than raising his hands and hoping for the best.

If bars and clubs want to prohibit weapons they have every right do so. Yet time and time again we have seen killers take advantage of a gun-free zone to kill. Both men and women have been attacked and killed after leaving bars, often on the way to their cars, hypothetically before they might reach their gun. Should non-drinkers carrying guns be disarmed too? Or those who know they can handle their alcohol and carry their gun at the same time? Bartenders show discretion on who not to serve at a certain point, so staff can show the same level of discretion to armed club goers.

Frankly, some establishments are patronized by gang members and thugs where a multitude of past incidents have occurred. One can make an argument that disarming patrons, with a capable armed security force, is an effective deterrent to would-be murders and terrorists. But note that an effective screening process is required to detect weapons and capable armed force able to respond. A half-assed wanding and a single security guard with no more than the basic state required training won’t do. If everyone coming in is disarmed, there must be a plan and credible resources to stop a worst-case threat like in Orlando.

For establishments without security screening, just how the heck will they detect a concealed firearm? In Nevada and most states, private persons have no right to demand to see a permit. In most cases, concealed weapons go undetected without incident at a dramatically higher rate than anyone would believe. Many bars and restaurants in Nevada also have no problem with patrons openly carrying. This once again goes to show the problems are with the person, not the gun.


Alcohol does have the ability to impact judgement, but is that impact so severe we must set a ‘zero’ level for carrying guns, far lower than we do with driving? Laws do not prevent crime and a law that criminalizes what is now ordinary, innocent behavior would only serve to punish those who seek to protect themselves. The mere appearance of guns and alcohol being incongruent doesn’t mean the actually are. Discretion on both the part of the citizen carrier and staff/security is key to keeping everyone safe while respecting the right to armed self-defense.

2 comments:

  1. Uh...actually more people are killed with vehicles, even just DUI, than with handguns. Unless you're playing to the left and including the vast majority of "killed by firearms" being SUICIDES.

    Quick Google check is all that is required. Just look up number of people killed by vehicles and then look up the number of firearm related "deaths" (this includes suicides and is the highest number). Firearms are STILL lower

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  2. Latest numbers: "According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, making alcohol the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in America. By comparison, guns are far less dangerous. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reports less than 33,000 people die each year from gun violence, and of those, nearly 20,000 are suicides." - Washington Times: 7/5/16: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jul/5/guns-far-less-dangerous-than-alcohol/

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