Residents discuss permitting concealed weapons in bars
Monday, Mar 03, 2008 - 12:55 AM
BY Amy Hunter
BRISTOL, Va. – Ron Boggs has been at the wrong end of a gun twice in his life.
He lost both times.
But sitting with the happy-hour crowd at The Wing Doctor last week, Boggs was resolute in his appreciation for firearms.
"They can have my gun when they take it out of my cold, dead hands," he said, quoting the often-repeated National Rifle Association line.
The handful of folks sitting at the dark, smoky bar mostly agreed with Boggs, and over a couple of beers and a few cigarettes, they discussed a bill passed by the Virginia General Assembly recently that would allow people with permits to take concealed weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol.
"As far as the bar goes, it’s just geography," Boggs said. "If they’re gonna shoot someone, then they’re gonna shoot someone."
The existing law allows those with the proper permits to take guns into places that serve alcohol as long as the weapon is openly carried. The bill would add provisions that would let people carry hidden handguns, as long as they had a permit to do so, and they consume no alcohol.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Emmett W. Hanger, passed in the House by a 62-36 vote, and in the Senate with a 24-15 vote. The measure now goes to Gov. Tim Kaine for his signature.
Lawmakers say they expect Kaine to veto it.
John Pierce, a local gun advocate and proud open-carrier, said Tuesday that nearly 175,000 Virginians, including himself, have concealed weapon permits, which amounts to 3 percent of the adult population.
The bill, he said, is an improvement on the current law in a number of ways, but namely because it prohibits all alcohol consumption by concealed weapon carriers.
Right now, he said, folks openly carrying guns can drink up to the legal limit.
"Alcohol and guns don’t mix," he said. "No one is making that argument."
Bristol Virginia police Capt. Maynard Ratcliff agreed with Pierce about mixing firearms and alcohol, but said he and a couple of officers he spoke with at the department worried about who would monitor the law and ensure concealed carriers abstain from alcohol if the weapons aren’t visible.
"I don’t want to speak for all law enforcement, but we’ll probably be against that," he said. "If the law changes so they can carry them concealed, more people would probably do that."
Natasha Honaker, manager at the Wing Doctor, said whenever guns and alcohol are combined, certain situations can take a deadly turn.
"It sounds kind of ridiculous," she said. "... Anytime you have alcohol, people can get out of hand. If they have a gun, then it’s bad news. Anyone could grab the gun."
Still, Honaker wasn’t too worried about the bill. In her two years at the small restaurant, she said there has never been an incident involving a gun, and rarely does a brawl break out. The place closes early most nights, so they don’t have the trouble that comes with late-night drinkers, she added.
Mark Casey sat on the stool next to Boggs. The Bristol Virginia resident said his opinion is that guns have no place in a bar. But, he said, he doesn’t think the legislation matters because the problem isn’t with law-abiding gun owners.
The group agreed and reached a consensus that crimes are not being committed by legal gun owners. The trouble brews from criminals who already abuse or disregard weapon laws and will carry a gun regardless of whether the governor signs it into law, they said.
The bartender agreed, saying that after nine years in his profession, he’d seen his fair share of bar fights. But even in fights between those who were packing guns, restraint was used, and the guns were never shown.
Beyond the futility of the legislation, the group said, such laws are a problem because they’re examples of the government telling people what to do.
"Where does it stop?" Boggs asked rhetorically. "What are they gonna do next? Take the knives? I’ve seen more people stabbed than shot."
firstname.lastname@example.org | (276) 645-2531