Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Alcohol and gun play

Of course, the line coming from the NRA about having guns where alcohol is served is a non sequiter. The gun lobby loves to tell you that permit holders know they are not supposed to drink while carrying and that it is illegal in the first place. No worries then, for the rest of us who choose not to carry. No one who carries a gun into a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol will order a drink or a beer. I feel safer already. The obvious counter argument is that it's too late once the permit holder has actually had too much to drink and shoots someone. Are bar tenders now supposed to ask to see a permit or ask if someone has a gun on them before serving them a beer? How else can we stop people who decide to drink while carrying from drinking while carrying? Will law abiding citizens obey the laws concerning alcohol and guns? As more states pass laws allowing people to carry guns in places that serve alcohol, we will see how the laws work. Will the argument now be that guns are needed in bars to protect yourself from people carrying guns in bars?

The University of California Davis has released a 15 year old survey about people who drink and own or carry guns. The author of the survey decided to look again at the older data because no one has done a survey like this since his own was completed. It appears from the questions asked of respondents (15,000 in 8 states) that " According to a new analysis of data by Garen J. Wintemute, director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, people who drink heavily and engage in risky behavior like drinking while driving are also more likely to own guns and carry a concealed weapon." At the time of the survey (1996/97) only 4 states had permit to carry guns laws. Now all states but one ( Illinois)  allow carrying of loaded guns in public. But not all are uniform in allowing guns in places where alcohol is served. It is legal in Minnesota to do so. Now that we have decided as a country that the carrying of guns in public places is a good idea, we have created a potential for more gun incidents in public places. If Wintemute's information is correct, it is also likely that we will see an increase in gun incidents in bars and restaurants. I'm all about prevention. Why pass laws that will make it easier for people to shoot someone?

So let's look at a few examples of gun owners and permit holders not abiding by the laws already on the books. First, this one. A card game gone wrong after too much to drink. This could have ended with the fist fight during the drunken card game. But because one of the guys had a gun at home and too much to drink, it led to a potentially dangerous situation which ended in the arrest of the gun owner. Here's another shooting at a tavern in Philadelphia. Does anyone else think it's ironic that people can't smoke in bars, restaurants and public places but they can bring a gun in? Smoking, and second hand smoke, have been proven to be dangerous to our health. Because it costs the health care industry so much money to treat people with smoking related diseases, and because too many people die as a result, we have taken many steps to prevent illness and deaths from smoking. We don't allow people to smoke in public places. Why do we allow loaded guns in public places? They are potentially as much of a risk to health and public safety as are cigarettes. The difference? Smoking is not protected by a constitutional amendment. Another difference? Alcohol is known to alter one's judgement which is never a good idea around a loaded gun.

North Carolina is considering a law to allow guns in places where alcohol is served. This blog post is written in opposition. Dr. Art Kamm, the author of the piece gives the obvious reasons why drinking alcohol while carrying a gun is a terrible idea:" Ethanol, the type of alcohol we drink, is a psychoactive substance and a legally permitted recreational drug.  It interacts with multiple neurotransmitter systems and is behavior modifying.  The substance can produce impaired judgment as well as emotional liability, i.e., excessive mood swings ranging from rage to euphoria.  Law enforcement officials are all too familiar with alcohol-related violent behavior." I hope you will read the rest of this article. The arguments are made in such a reasoned way that it becomes a stretch to believe the arguments coming from the gun lobby.

The Ohio legislature passed a law (not yet signed by the Governor) allowing permit holders to carry in bars and restaurants. Here is an article about why this is not a good idea. This article, written by an Ohio Mayor who chairs the Ohio Mayors Against Illegal Guns makes a lot of sense. You wouldn't know it by the comments made on the article, however. Common sense tells us all that guns and alcohol just do not mix. They make for a lethal cocktail no matter how you look at it. This should be an area of agreement between the gun lobby and the gun control advocates. But instead, it seems that if a few people lose their lives in shooting incidents in bars in states where people can drink and carry, so what? As long as the rights of the gun guys are protected, some collateral damage is acceptable.

How did we get to this place in our national discourse when we have determined that drinking and driving is dangerous and results in penalties? How did we get to this point in our national discourse that, because of proof that smoking in public is dangerous to the health of our citizens, we ban it in public places? How did we get to the point in our national discourse that allowing loaded guns in public places is not considered to be dangerous to the health and safety of our citizens? From the linked piece ( Dr. Kamm)  "It has additionally been argued that concealed weapons have been permitted in restaurants and bars in several other states without problems.  Such an argument is invalid regarding safety because the issue is not the history; it is the potential.  In fact it is this very mind set that often prevents common sense regulation from being put into place that later results in loss of life or damage to our public.  As examples, should we conclude after several years without incident that a blocked exit does not pose a safety risk?"

Sometimes decision making just does not make common sense. Safety features in products and unsafe public places are there for a reason. At some time, someone was injured or killed because safety measures were not in place. Perhaps a law suit was filed that called attention to unsafe products or public places and someone had to pay a large fine or a settlement for not taking care of the danger. Features such as fencing, warning signs, guard rails, caps on medicine bottles, safety latches for cupboards to keep young children away from ingesting dangerous cleaning liquids, etc., railings on stairways, car seat belts and air bags, warnings on products, child safety seats, no smoking in public places, food labels, etc. keep us safer.

Action was taken when, in the incident above, a man lit up a cigarette. We have learned about the dangers of second hand smoke, so we acted. Instead of doing the same with guns, which we know to be dangerous, we allow them in more places where alcohol is served. The answer is not to expand gun carrying to more public places but to have fewer guns in public places. Because we now allow guns in public places, people think they need guns to protect themselves from people with guns in public places. Such flawed logic should not stop the states and our country from making sensible gun laws for the sake of public health and safety.

38 comments:

  1. "Are bar tenders now supposed to ask to see a permit or ask if someone has a gun on them before serving them a beer? How else can we stop people who decide to drink while carrying from drinking while carrying? "

    ...How are we stopping them now? There's nothing stopping someone from illegally carrying a concealed weapon in a bar. Other than it's illegal.

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  2. "The University of California Davis has released a 15 year old survey about people who drink and own or carry guns."

    Since by his own admission there were only 4 states that allowed concealed carry (and we don't know that those 4 were included in the 8 states that the data covers) it is pretty obvious that he is talking about at least some people who carried illegally. We have maintained all along that there is a difference between people who carry legally and those who carry illegally.

    Since we also know that there are more traffic accidents when people drink maybe we should ban cars from being parked within so many yards of where alcohol is served. Want to eat at a nice restaurant where they serve wine with dinner? Have to take a cab or go to jail. Makes more sense.

    Really, have you had a bunch of shootem ups in Minnesota since you started allowing people to carry in restaurants where alcohol is served?

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  3. As I said, I'm into prevention. The statement made by Dr. Kamm says it all. Just because a blocked exit hasn't caused a safety problem yet, doesn't mean it won't. How do you tell the difference between someone carrying legally or someone carrying illegally? As a citizen, should I ask to see their permit card? I have written on this blog about a number of law abiding citizens carrying in bars and restaurants and guns accidentally discharging. Most of the cases of shootings in bars that I have blogged about have been altercations between people ( law abiding) who know the people they shot or someone who has had too much to drink and goes to their car or home and comes back with a gun to shoot in anger, such as the case I provided above.

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  4. "How do you tell the difference between someone carrying legally or someone carrying illegally? As a citizen, should I ask to see their permit card?"

    As usual you have either totally missed my point or are obfuscating so as to not acknowledge it. The point is not whether you can tell whether someone is carrying legally or not. The point is that a person who is willing to risk carrying illegally is not going to be concerned about drinking and carrying or drinking, driving and carrying. By the fact that he is willing to carry illegally he has shown he is into risky behavior. He is also willing to partake in illegal behavior as evidenced by the fact that in at least 4 states he was carrying illegally. Which is what we have been saying all along. Criminals don't obey the law because they are criminals. To equate the behavior of a criminal with someone who goes to the trouble and expense of getting a permit is ridiculous. Wintermute's study is worthless.

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  5. " How do you tell the difference between someone carrying legally or someone carrying illegally? As a citizen, should I ask to see their permit card?"

    If it's concealed, you'd never know to ask in the first place.

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  6. No Robin. I have not missed your point. It is the opposite, actually. The examples I provided were from law abiding citizens. That is my point. Law abiding citizens with guns and drinking too much can cause accidents and maybe even serious injury or death. This does not mean that all law abiding citizens will do this. I am not saying that. I am saying that allowing guns in more places where alcohol is served is asking for trouble. What makes you think that all people who carry legally will always do the right thing? Judgement is impaired under the influence of alcohol, even for law abiding people. That is my point.

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  7. "I am saying that allowing guns in more places where alcohol is served is asking for trouble"

    "Judgement is impaired under the influence of alcohol, even for law abiding people."

    Since drunk driving and traffic accidents are a bigger problem than guns in bars we should also force all restaurants that serve alcohol with meals to do away with their parking lots. Lets stop traffic accidents that involve alcohol. Sure the majority of people are responsible but lets not take any chances.

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  8. Robin, I understand where you are going with your comment. I certainly agree that driving while drunk is a more serious problem than drinking while carrying. Certainly, though, we have been working hard as a country to penalize those who get caught by issuing tickets and fines. We can't stop all of the accidents. But we are trying with educating people about the risks, getting people to use the buddy system so the one who is driving is not drinking. Should we be doing the same with drinking while carrying? What do the carry classes teach about this? As with cars and drinking, it's too late once the accident has occurred and someone is killed. I am merely pointing out that we could potentially save more lives if we didn't allow guns in bars and places that serve alcohol. Since guns are weapons whose purpose is to injure or kill someone, and we know that having a gun while drinking is not a good idea, it makes sense to me to just not have guns in bars. I don't see the need for a gun everywhere I go and you do. This is a very philosophical difference between the gun rights activists and the gun control advocates. We are in 2 different worlds here and we will not agree about this one. So I suggest we move on.

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  9. "What do the carry classes teach about this" In Ohio, we teach that alcohol and guns NEVER mix. That won't change. I just received word that the Governor is going to sign the restaurant / bar carry bill today (will take effect in 90 days) so we will adjust the training to make sure people understand that they are like designated drivers in that they must NOT drink if they choose to carry anywhere alcohol is served.

    No one I associate with drinks and carries/handles firearms afterwards. period. That's how we get to be OLD gunnies..

    It will be nice to not have to disarm just because I want to eat at red lobster though.

    "This is a very philosophical difference between the gun rights activists and the gun control advocates. We are in 2 different worlds..."

    I just ran across a very interesting book called "A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles" by Sowell. It's medium heavy lifting, but I have found it to be really quite enlightening in my quest to understand how we end up in such different worlds. Sowell is a hard core conservative, but this book is more of a scholarly work that keeps his views largely out of it and presents the underpinnings of how we end up on either side of "the fence". Owning a kindle has made it way too easy to buy such books..

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  10. I like the attempt at some humor to lighten things up, 18Echo. I'm happy to hear that you and your friends are so responsible. Would that all others would do the same but such is not the case. Yes, I, too, have a Kindle. That book sounds interesting. I think there are many reasons and it's always amazing to me that people can think so differently about the same thing.

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  11. In the examples (links) you provided, in both instances the shooter first left the premises, THEN returned with a handgun. Apparently, even the permit holder was not carrying at the time of the original confrontation. Given that, these examples only prove that guns and alcohol consumption don't mix. That's a given. Wheteher the gunmen went to their homes or their cars to retrieve the gun does not matter. At that point they both had plenty of time to decide their next actions. In both cases, they decided to return and fire shots. No law would have stopped them, and didn't. It's already against the law to shoot someone when it's not self defense.

    Further, had someone with a lawfully carried gun been in the bar, they very well may have been able to stop this madman before he killed and injured so many. Last point: Apparently smoking DOES kill.

    AH

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  12. I was just waiting for someone to say that surely someone with a gun could and certainly would have stopped one of these incidents. Of course, you can't say that for sure. Yes, they both had time to think about it but what if they didn't have a gun available? Maybe a fist fight?

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  13. "Yes, they both had time to think about it but what if they didn't have a gun available? Maybe a fist fight?"

    Or a knifing, or arson, or... You get the point. If a person decides he/she wants to harm others, they'll find a way. The only way to make sure there isn't a gun available would be to have a total gun ban (but then you've said that is not your goal), and even then, exactly how are you going to get EVERYONE to turn theirs in? Without a magic genie, I find that to be very unlikely.

    AH

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  14. Guns account for more injury deaths than any other method of homicide. That is because they are easy to use and more lethal. You can shoot from a distance and shoot more than once.

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  15. Ohio Governor John Kasich did sign SB17 yesterday to close the restaurant loophole.

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  16. Joan, what would it take to convince you that the gun rights advocates are correct?

    Play pretend for a minute, and list what it would take to convince you that gun laws are adequate as they currently exist.

    Going even further, what would it take to convince you that a particular gun law should be reformed or even repealed?

    I'm speaking purely in generalities because I don't want to get bogged down in debating a specific sub section of the debate over guns.

    kthanxbai

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  17. Yes. I saw that. I'd just hate to have one place where you guys can't carry your guns.

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  18. In Virginia, it was mandatory for all firearms to be carried openly in any place that served alcohol. Now, it is legal to carry concealed.

    The difference? Previously, there was no law preventing those carrying from drinking. Now there is.

    And nothing has changed. There were and are no shoot outs in the bars and restaurants.

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  19. This is Dr. Kamm. My article was referenced in paragraph 4 above. I am not a member of any advocacy group, pro or con. I have a background in product safety/regulation and was a corporate officer in a regulated industry within the healthcare sector. Legislation that would increase public exposure to loaded weapons in establishments that serve alcohol raised concerns for me, and let me address of couple of points from the discussion on this blog.

    First, regarding product safety, it is not history that counts, it is potential. For example, drug products were marketed for several decades without any requirement to evaluate safety until one finally claimed the lives of over 100 people through poisoning in the 20th century. Today we take for granted that the behavior of a drug product is understood before we or members of our family take it. The arguments that prevented safety evaluation for these products were much the same as we hear today for gun products in eating and drinking establishments; i.e., there have been no problems so why address an issue that does not exist.

    Second, in product safety one needs to take into consideration the intended use of the product. For example, the intended use of an automobile is transportation - getting from point A to point B. Although we do have people make the decision to use that product when impaired, the intent is not to take a life. When the decision is made to use a handgun, the intent is to inflict serious bodily injury, including killing, another person - and that decision must be made without impairment.

    When one examines the effects of ethanol, the well-documented history of alcohol-related violent behavior, the many documented instances of individuals with gun permits who have carried weapons while intoxicated and even discharged them (including law enforcement officers who are sworn to uphold the law), and the risk behavior study (the UC Davis study) that showed a greater likelihood of heavy alcohol use in gun owners than non-gun owners, there is little doubt that the day-to-day presence of loaded guns in establishments that serve alcohol increases the opportunity for unnecessary firearm discharge in a public setting. Can an individual drink at home and then carry the weapon into public? Of course, but would not mixing guns and alcohol consumption in a public setting just increase the likelihood for problems?

    This country permits firearm ownership and I have no problem with that. But that right should not trump common sense regulation just as we do with other products.

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  20. Joan,

    If you guys suddenly cooperated with the common sense gun control laws that we propose and we saw a tremendous decrease in gun violence, we would naturally want stricter laws in order to lower even more the remaining gun violence. Eventually, I and most of the others would conclude that no guns at all in civilian hands is the best way to go.

    That quote is from one of your frequenter commenters and supporters -- Mikeb302000.

    You keep saying that no one wants to take away our firearms but isn't that exactly what Mikeb302000 is trying to do?

    So.....why shouldn't we resist your efforts and his to restrict any level of our rights when it appears it is just a ploy for eventual disarmament?

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  21. While in college I belonged to a group that was centered around marksmanship and competitive shooting.

    This was in a state that allows concealed carry in establishments that serve alcohol.

    Among our group of ten-fifteen individuals, those who were picked to be the designated drivers for the evening were also assigned the responsibility of being the designated defensive personnel (it was rather amazing that the group consisted of people who had both drivers licenses and concealed weapons permits.)

    Now, if a bunch of twenty-something college students were able to work out a process whereby those who carried abstained from drinking, I fail to see why such a common sense notion wouldn't apply to members of the public at large.

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  22. I believe this is a failure to understand irony.

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  23. Now I have to say that having a designated defenisve personnel is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard of. What in God's name were you all so afraid of that you had to designate someone to defend you all? Where in the heck do you live anyway? We are not at war.

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  24. Joan,

    What I believe it to be is a failure of your ability to admit the truth.

    People like Mikeb302000 want to disarm everyone but the military.

    You yourself stated that you would keep pushing for ever restrictive laws until Zero firearm related murders.

    That leads to total civilian disarmament.

    There are people who call for repeal of the 2nd Amendment and banning handguns/assault weapons/shotguns they don't like/ hunting rifles they don't like.

    You keep accusing us of being extremist without admitting that gun control advocates have their extremists also. And more people on your side are willing to push for gun bans.

    I provided one example and you blow it off.

    You've said you won't give up any existing gun control laws, Baldr has said the same thing, MikeB302000 has said the same thing.

    So why should we even sit down and talk about 'reasonable' gun control laws when your side won't give up anything ?

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  25. "The gun lobby loves to tell you that permit holders know they are not supposed to drink while carrying and that it is illegal in the first place."

    Under Minnesota statute, a permit holder legally carrying a firearm, must have a BAC under 0.04%. There is not a prohibition otherwise on carrying in a restaurant or bar.

    Most instructors, including myself, would highly advise not drinking when carrying a firearm.

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  26. "The answer is not to expand gun carrying to more public places but to have fewer guns in public places. Because we now allow guns in public places, people think they need guns to protect themselves from people with guns in public places. Such flawed logic should not stop the states and our country from making sensible gun laws for the sake of public health and safety. "

    There's absolutely zero data that indicates that carrying a firearm in a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol has created any sort of statistically significant problem in any state where this is legal.

    This has been legal in Minnesota since the MPPA was passed in 2003 - in eight years, there's been no upward trend in crimes committed in these restaurants or bars - or connected crimes committed by intoxicated permit holders within such a bar or restaurant - that would indicate that there is some sort of a problem.

    If there's no data to support that there's an issue, why should this be illegal?

    Bryan

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  27. "Now I have to say that having a designated defenisve personnel is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard of. What in God's name were you all so afraid of that you had to designate someone to defend you all? Where in the heck do you live anyway? We are not at war."

    Why is this ridiculous? I'd like to see more individuals take responsibility for their personal safety - whether they're carrying a firearm or not.

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  28. "Back at you, kthanxbai."

    What would it take for me to advocate for the liberalization or outright repeal of certain gun laws?

    Why, simply applying a strict scrutiny standard to them in the same way that legal violations of the first amendment must pass a strict scrutiny standard in order to hold up in court.

    If said gun laws cannot meet with such a standard, they are clearly unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

    Also, for further reference, kthanxbai is internet shorthand for "Ok, thanks for your time, buh-bye now."

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  29. Good, then we can agree that background checks on all gun sales would meet your standards. They are not unconstitutional and have not been found so. In both Heller and McDonald it was found that gun laws that restrict who can have guns, where they can have them and what kind of guns are within the second amendment which only found that it is constitutiuonal to have a gun for self defense.

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  30. Neither Heller or McDonald say anything about applying a strict scrutiny test to the second amendment.


    Durrrrrrr.

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  31. Noah Webster said "Before a standing army can rule the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States."

    We can draw from that the necessity of military quality arms, many of which are currently used for hunting deer.

    Also worthy of consideration is the original text of the 2nd Amendment:
    The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

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  32. Stew- I need a source for your Noah Webster quote. I have found that very often founding fathers and the like are misquoted. Also, as to your last, we go by what the 2nd Amendment actually says, not what the original one or any other version. The one that is in our Constitution is the one with which we abide.

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  33. Here in DE we can carry in places that serve alcohol. What's more, it's legal to drink while carrying.

    Despite this there haven't been a rash of CCW holders getting plastered, whipping out their guns and shooting people. In fact, I've yet to read of an instance in which a DE CCW holder got drunk at a bar/restaurant and pulled a gun.

    It's simply not a problem that needs to be addressed by the legislature. Hell. I've open carried into a bar and yet somehow I wasn't overcome with the sudden urge to start downing shots, start fights and wave my gun around.

    There's no law against carrying in places that serve AND no law against drinking while carrying. Despite this we still don't have problems. If there's no evidence of an actual problem then there's no need for more gun control laws, right Joan?

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  34. I'm into prevention Mike. I'd rather not have someone get shot in case of drink and shoot. It's pretty simple. Everyone knows that alcohol does funny and not so funny things to people. Why take a chance?

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  35. If allowing concealed carry is demonstrably not a problem in those states that allow it, what, exactly, is it you are preventing by disallowing similar laws being passed in other states?

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  36. I have published a follow-up article to the one referenced in paragraph 4 of this blog (link provided below). I am not a member of any advocacy group, pro or con, on gun rights. The issue I have is not one of gun ownership; mine is a public safety concern regarding the presence of loaded weaponry in an environment where alcohol is being consumed. My belief is that there is something that both sides of this gun debate can agree, however, and that is individuals should have the right to be fully informed regarding their decision to purchase any goods or service. With the level of out-of-state traffic, including from abroad, that enters eating and drinking establishment who should not be expected to know the differences between individual states on laws, I believe an Opt-In requirement, i.e., signage stating that law permits those with concealed carry permits to bring their handguns into an establishment would allow all to make an informed decision about whether they wish to enter an establishment - these laws are typically only Opt-Out requiring no signage at establishments that permit gun carry. I don't see any down side to either side of the debate by making these laws Opt-In and this could provide some common ground. The arguments are made in this article: http://www.artonissues.com/2011/07/guns-alcohol-and-legislation-part-2-commerce-and-opt-in/

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  37. Thank you Dr. Kamm for your follow-up article about guns in bars and restaurants. I think your idea about an "opt-in" is an interesting and good one. If business establishments really understand what this is about, they might think twice if they have to opt in rather than opt-out. Your linked article after the Tucson shooting was also very complete about the current environment that makes gun talk and gun carrying the norm rather than the outlier in our country.

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