New 'Guns in Bars' Laws Raise Some Justifiable Concern

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This week, The New York Times ran a story detailing recent laws in Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona and Virginia that allow gun owners to carry loaded weapons to bars. While similar laws already exist elsewhere--18 states allow guns in restaurants that serve alcohol--the Times story has put gun rights back at the front of the national conversation, with many onlookers skeptical about the wisdom of combining guns, alcohol, and passionate sports-watching in the same place.

  • Mixed Reaction From Locals  The Times article quotes a number of Tennessee residents, some of whom support the latest expansion of gun rights and some of whom don't. One gun owner told the reporter, "People who have gun permits have the cleanest records around ... The guy that's going to do the bad thing? He's not worried about the law at all. The 'No Guns' sign just says to him, 'Hey, buddy, smooth sailing.'" But another Tennessean expressed reservations: "That's not cool in my book ... It opens the door to trouble. It's giving you the right to be Wyatt Earp."
  • Confusing Rules  The laws appear to vary from state to state. In Tennessee, for example, you can't drink alcohol if you take your gun to the bar. In Arizona, you can bring a gun along if you have a concealed-carry permit--unless the bar has posted a sign prohibiting weapons. To make matters even more uncertain, not all of these details are well-known either to restaurant owners or to the public.
  • What About Those Safety Records?  In May, as the guns-in-bars legislation made its way through the Tennessee statehouse, Jeff Woods at the alt-weekly Nashville Scene ran the numbers: "In the past two years alone, 1,556 handgun permits have been suspended, revoked or denied—606 for felony arrests or convictions and 551 because orders of protection were issued... In just a little more than a year, handgun permit holders have been accused of at least five killings—two of which were cases of road rage."
  • Does This Lower Anyone's Chances of Injury?  Jen Doll at The Village Voice confesses she's "bewildered by the number of people who seem to believe firmly that toting around a gun equals self-protection. If we all have guns, aren't we just back to status quo, albeit an easier-to-die status quo?"
  • Vigilante Days Are Here Again  Gawker's Max Read rolls his eyes at Tennessee State Representative Curry Todd's assertion that "the police aren't going to be able to protect you... after you and your family's been shot or injured or assaulted or raped." Read's response: "Yes, allowing people to hold onto their guns will surely solve the widespread problem of family-rape in Tennessee bars! It'll be just like 'The Wild West,' which, if I'm remembering my history correctly, was a time of unparalleled peace and lawfulness when no one died from being shot by drunk people."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.