If there’s one thing I can’t stand in a debate, it’s the tendency to toss out an emotional argument for one side of an issue, and then flat-out refusing to acknowledge that the other side may have a valid point or two as well.
Ohio has passed a reform of its concealed carry laws that allows permit holders to carry their legal guns into establishments that have Class D liquor licenses. Predictably, the people opposing that legislation are calling it the “Guns in Bars” law, to invoke mental images of drunken yahoos having a shoot-out over a ball game score or a sideways glance in a sports bar.
The main reason why gun rights organizations push for such laws has nothing to do with bars. (In fact, even with the new Ohio law, it will remain a felony to drink alcohol at those establishments while armed.) Those laws just make it legal for a permit holder to stay armed while eating at a restaurant (most of which have on-premises hooch licenses), or merely walking into an establishment that has a liquor license. That includes bars, technically speaking, but the intent and scope of the law precludes people getting legally tanked at Big Ed’s Sports Bar while strapped. Those laws just mean that Joe Permit doesn’t have to disarm and leave his gun in the car while eating at Chili’s. It keeps everyone safer because it eliminates gun handling in the parking lot, it doesn’t require a firearm to be left unattended in a semi-public space, and it doesn’t give criminals an obvious target for theft or robbery. (As for the “this will cost a life” argument–I know of at least one well-documented case where a permit holder died because he complied with the law and disarmed, only to be mugged and killed in the parking lot on the way back to his car. That argument cuts both ways.) I repeat: it remains a felony in Ohio to drink in those establishments while toting a gun, and will result in loss of carry rights and imprisonment. Also, the law has a provision for any business to opt out by posting a “No Guns” sign at the door.
Now, the argument that such laws will cost lives and increase deadly confrontations at bars is not supported by the evidence. Many states with legal concealed carry have laws that allow the carrying of guns in places that serve liquor. Some of them, like my own home state of New Hampshire, don’t even specify that CCW holders can’t drink while armed. And yet we make it through life without drunks gunning each other down in the bars and taverns of the Granite State over hockey or baseball scores every weekend. I can go down to the bar in town and legally have five beers and a martini while packing a gun. (Why don’t I do that? Because I have the sense to not intentionally make myself impaired while carrying a firearm–and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have the sense to check or care about the law before I head down to the old watering hole.) Ohio’s law is way more restrictive, so why would you assume that this will be a problem, unless you think Ohioans as a whole are much less responsible and more violence-prone than New Hampshireites?
It’s a patently condescending and classist argument because it assumes that other people can’t act in a smart way (especially those low-brow, Budweiser-swilling, conservative gun-toting rednecks), and that the only people who want to legally carry guns are invariably uneducated, violent morons who just don’t have the good judgment to not drink and tote in public, and to not shoot their seat neighbor when they’re pissed off. (As if anyone prone to that kind of behavior is going to give two shits about the legality of the pistol in his waistband any more than he does about the fact that shooting people dead is illegal outside of legitimate self-defense.)
I just don’t get how you can call yourself an educated, open-minded person when you’re perfectly willing to boil down an argument to the least honest, most emotional, most willfully misleading implication of the law while completely ignoring the other side of the debate…just because you disagree with the law in question.