Earlier this month, Malcolm Gay’s article entitled “More States Allowing Guns in Bars” appeared in the New York Times. The article, while not as outrageously anti-gun as some other articles, takes a dim view of concealed carry, and engages in unfounded fear mongering of the type that is all too common. Quotes from that article, and my responses, can be seen below:
Gun rights advocates like Mr. Ringenberg may applaud the new law, but many customers, waiters and restaurateurs here are dismayed by the decision.
The article starts by stating that a particular gun rights supporter appreciates the new TN state law that allows individuals to carry their self defense gun into a bar, and that this makes “many” other people nervous. Firstly, this introduction to the article is misleading, and implies that the TN law allows those who are drinking to carry a gun. Instead, the TN law only allows those who are not drinking to carry into bars. Secondly, the article portrays this law as being supported by one person (and some impliedly small group of like-minded individuals), while being opposed by a great “many” other people from all walks of life. Again, this is not the case. Instead, this latest improvement of gun rights is a reflection of the growing, national trend towards greater gun rights, supported by ordinary Americans.
“That’s not cool in my book,” Art Andersen, 44, said as he nursed a Coors Light at Sam’s Sports Bar and Grill near Vanderbilt University. “It opens the door to trouble. It’s giving you the right to be Wyatt Earp.”
Anti gun articles almost invariably contain references to wild-west shootouts, and this article is apparently no exception. For some reason, those who fear guns just can’t accept the fact that “wild-west” shootouts are not perpetrated by concealed carry permit holders. Over the last 20 years, this country has seen a tremendous expansion in concealed carry rights, with 48 states now having some form of concealed carry, and the majority of such states having “shall-issue” concealed carry laws, making concealed carry for law-abiding individuals as much of a right as the right to a driver’s license. There are millions of Americans who lawfully carrying firearms every day, yet it is exceedingly rare that one of those individuals will misuse their gun. Indeed, the anti gun group Million Mom March spent great effort compiling 15 years worth of concealed carry permit holder misconduct from dozens of states, in an attempt to suggest that such citizens are a danger to society. What they came up with was a few pages of what are primarily traffic offense and other non-gun-related petty crimes, showing once again that concealed carry permit holders are incredibly law abiding, and that the wild west shootout idea is little more than an unfounded fear.
“A lot of states for a long time have not felt the need to say you could or couldn’t do it,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “There weren’t as many conceal-carry permits out there, so it wasn’t really an issue.” Now, he said, “the attitude from the gun lobby is that they should be able to take their guns wherever they want. In the last year, they’re starting to move toward needing no permit at all.”
Gun rights have greatly expanded indeed! However, this is not a result of some shadowy cabal imposing its will up on country, as Mr. Helmke likes to suggest with the term “gun lobby.” Instead, it is the result of millions of individuals Americans recognizing that they have an individual right to keep and bear arms for self defense and other lawful purposes, recognizing that well-funded anti gun groups are actively spreading misinformation and working to undermine that right, and those millions of Americans then choosing to spend their time and money to stand up for their gun rights. Taking myself as an example, I have spent thousands of hours and quite a bit of my personal money to create LearnAboutGuns.com, and did so out of a personal desire to make my country a better place by getting behind a cause in which I believe strongly.
Truth be told, it is the anti gun groups that lack popular support and represent the very sort of shadowy cabal that Mr. Helmke alluded to when discussing the “gun lobby.”
State Representative Curry Todd, a Republican who first introduced the guns-in-bars bill here, said that carrying a gun inside a tavern was never the law’s primary intention. Rather, he said, the law lets people defend themselves while walking to and from restaurants.
Representative Todd makes an excellent point. As a concealed carry permit holder, one of the most frequent questions that I am asked by anti-gun individuals is “why do you need a gun in [insert seemingly safe location]?” To that, I answer that crime can happen anywhere, but more importantly, I carry my gun at [seemingly safe location] because I wish to be able to defend myself when traveling to/from [seemingly safe location], and when going about the rest of my day. For example, if I am going to the bank, the grocery store, the gas station, a friend’s house, and a restaurant, being prevented from carrying in any one of those locations could effectively prevent me from carrying in any of those locations and while traveling between those locations.
Under Tennessee’s new law, gun permit holders are not supposed to drink alcohol while carrying their weapons. Mr. Ringenberg washed down his steak sandwich with a Coke.
As I noted above, the fact that the TN law bans the carrying of a gun while drinking alcohol was conveniently omitted from the beginning of the article, where the law is first discussed. It is not until here, more than half-way through the article, that Malcolm Gay mentions that ever-so-important fact.
But critics of the law say the provision is no guarantee of safety, pointing to a recent shooting in Virginia where a customer who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon shot himself in the leg while drinking beer at a restaurant.
As a threshold matter, I feel obligated to note that anytime someone is shot unintentionally, it is the result of a person’s inexcusable negligence. Guns are incredibly safe and simple-to-operate machines. Just about any person can quickly master the safe operation of a gun, and it takes multiple violations of the basic rules of gun safety for there to be an unintentional shooting.
More importantly, the fact that one person (out of the millions of concealed carry permit holders across the country) recently managed to cause himself (and only himself) a non-life-threatening injury is rather irrelevant. One such case (or even a few more, should they occur) is statistically insignificant. Indeed, in that same time frame, I’ve written about a great many of cases in which armed citizens have used their guns to save themselves and other innocent people from violent criminals, so on balance, it would seem that even following Mr. Gay’s (flawed) reasoning, gun are more beneficial than harmful, and whatever harm suffered is suffered by the (negligent) gun owner, rather than any innocent bystander.
“A loaded concealed weapon in a bar is a recognized hazard,” said David Randolph Smith, a lawyer who represents the waiter and is preparing to appeal the decision. “I have a right to go into a restaurant or bar and not have people armed. And of course, the waiter has a right to a safe workplace.”
Firstly, it pains me see a fellow attorney make such statements. As discussed above, I do not see any basis for the statement that “a loaded concealed weapon in a bar is a recognized hazard.”
More importantly, I also don’t see any “right” of a person to voluntarily enter a place of business and demand that none of the other people in that place of business be armed for self defense. Quite the opposite, there is a individual constitutional right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. In § 26 of the Tennessee state Constitution, there is also a provision protecting the right of citizens keep and bear arms. Next, the state of Tennessee has enacted the law allowing guns to be carried in bars by qualified individuals who are not drinking, creating a statutory right to do just that (although bar owners could choose to exercise their right to turn away those customers). In sum, there are many sources of rights to keep and bear arms, but not a single source of a “right” for a person to tell other law abiding people that they may not be lawfully armed for self defense, just because one is unreasonably afraid of guns.
Down at Bobby’s Idle Hour, however, Mike Gideon said he did not believe that guns in bars were unsafe. As he sipped a beer in the fading afternoon light, Mr. Gideon, who characterized his 19-gun collection as “serious,” said that having a few permit holders around made any public space safer and that he boycotts any business that does not allow him to carry a weapon. “People who have gun permits have the cleanest records around,” said Mr. Gideon, 54. “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.’ ”
This portion of the article is the most rational and best-reasoned. It avoids fear-mongering, and notes the fact that concealed carry permit holders are among the most law abiding members of society (more so than even the police). Sadly, it comes buried at the very end of the article, after the many anti-gun statements.
My thanks to Matt for pointing out this anti gun article.