By C. Bell
“Guns and alcohol don’t mix!” I’ve heard that more times than I can count, often with the person making the statement not taking time to consider all of the aspects of the particular situation they’re commenting on. While that may be a good generalization or “rule of thumb” to apply to handling firearms or consuming alcohol, it doesn’t necessarily make logical sense for every case.
First, you want to obey the laws in your state in regards to alcohol and firearms. Second, even if it’s legal, you still want to be responsible. I think we can all agree that if you plan on getting drunk, you should probably ensure that you are not handling or possessing firearms on or immediately near your person.
Let me start by explaining what caused me to think about this subject more deeply. I was heading home from hiking and stopped by a local beer and liquor store before heading home. I had not consumed any alcohol that day whatsoever. As I was standing in line waiting to purchase a 6-pack of beer, a guy behind me noticed that I was carrying a firearm and randomly blurted out “guns and alcohol don’t mix.”
I immediately turned around and stated, “Neither does alcohol and driving, but you don’t have a problem with me getting in the car with this beer and driving home. I have not consumed any alcohol. I’m simply purchasing the alcohol, getting in my truck and going home to consume a drink at a later time or date.”
The man responded, “Yeah, I guess that’s true,” and that was all that brief conversation entailed before the cashier was ready for me to make my purchase and I left.
Now, I’m sure many of you will think, “Of course, but that’s not the same as consuming alcohol and handling firearms,” which is true, but I describe this event to give an example of people blindly making the aforementioned statement about guns and alcohol not mixing without thinking about the circumstances. I’ve also heard this statement made in social media posts or news articles about murders or other tragedies that have occurred where a firearm was used by a suspect under the influence of alcohol. This statement has also been made when the subject of the legality of consuming alcohol and carrying a firearm comes up on various gun related social media pages and forums.
Now, let’s objectively think about the previously mentioned situations in which this statement has been made. Generally, when this statement is made in regards to a murder or other tragedy that has occurred, it’s a situation where something else pushed the person over the edge or they were just a violent person to begin with. Sure, the alcohol may have contributed to the situation or lack of self-control, but ultimately the person in an intoxicated state made the decision to act as an aggressor, and would have likely done so regardless of whether or not a firearm was around.
Some of these cases occurred where the aggressor was in their own residence and retrieved the firearm after something went wrong, so the statement about guns and alcohol not mixing doesn’t really apply here. The person wasn’t actively handling or possessing the firearm on their person. They retrieved it after they were already enraged or out of control.
What could they have done different in regards to firearms? Lug all of their guns to the neighbor’s house? Perhaps they should also ensure every knife, including the drawer full of kitchen knives was removed from the home as well. Of course not, that’s absurd.
Then there’s the discussion board topic of the legality of carrying while drinking depending on the state. Even when it’s legal in a particular state, people usually advise against it and “what if” it to death because “what if” an overzealous attorney questions your judgement. Well if you can confidently articulate why you did what you did, were not legally impaired and it was a justified shoot, it shouldn’t be a problem if you weren’t breaking any laws.
When these discussions come up, some folks make it sound as if a drop of alcohol touches your tongue while you’re around a firearm that you’ll instantly turn into Yosemite Sam, wildly firing guns in the air at the drop of a hat or if someone says one wrong word to you. My philosophy is that if you can’t be trusted around a firearm while consuming alcohol you probably shouldn’t be drinking at all, and may not want to own a firearm either.
Don’t get me wrong though. If you’re going out to get drunk and party, you should definitely leave your gun at home, even if it’s not illegal to drink and carry in your state. However, what is the issue with someone going out to dinner with their family and responsibly having one to two standard drinks (which would have the average person under a .08% Blood Alcohol Content,) and carrying a firearm if it’s legal to do so in that state?
No one bats an eye at that same person having one to two drinks with their dinner and legally hopping behind the wheel of a car to actually operate the car on a public roadway. The gun, however, isn’t even being operated. It’s simply sitting in a holster.
Take Utah for example; if one can legally drive (under a .08 BAC,) one can legally carry. I don’t see an issue with that. There are other states that have similar standards. It’s legal and as long as you can safely and legally drive a car, what is the problem?
Here is the part where people usually throw out the “What if an attorney says,” questions. My response is the same as Brad Pitt’s character from the movie Fight Club during the scene where he’s interrogating the store clerk about why he gave up on his dreams, “Would you rather be dead?” Would you really rather be dead than dare have to possibly explain your actions to an overzealous lawyer? If you use your firearm, it should only be during an instance when if you had not used it, you likely would have been dead or severely injured.
An attorney may try to question you on anything, that’s what they do. The same people who dwell on this question are the same people who are afraid to pick a carry gun/caliber or modify their gun because “what if.” It’s actually kind of funny, because during my time in law enforcement and in the military the guys who always “what if’d” everything to death annoyed the instructors of various courses, but I digress.
When I was deployed in Iraq in 2007, all Marines got two beers for the Marine Corps’ birthday. Some Marines who didn’t drink (which aren’t many by the way) or didn’t like the limited selection of beer choices gave or sold their two beers to fellow Marines, so a few Marines had even more than two beers. By the way people talk, you’d think you would have had Marines shooting off rounds in the air and acting like maniacs, but it went off without a hitch. Which,l given the reputation of Marines, is kind of shocking, I know. We didn’t turn our firearms into the armory until the next day either.
How about the instance of when you’re sitting at home? Is it really logical and necessary for you to unload and secure your (home defense) gun(s) just to have a couple of drinks in your own home? You know the combination to your safe anyway, it only delays you enough to cost you time should you need it to defend yourself or your family. So, what’s really stopping you from getting it if you want it?
I highly doubt anyone would actually lug their guns over to a neighbor or family members’ house every time they have a drink in their own home. Should you really need or have to leave yourself defenseless to a deadly force threat just to have a drink in your own home? I don’t think so. Once again though, if you plan on getting “tanked,” you should probably put the guns away somewhere safe and keep them out of sight, out of mind.
In conclusion, while “guns and alcohol don’t mix” may be a good general rule, it’s not always the case. Yes, I know most people who drink have done stupid things while under the influence at some point in their life or drank too much without intending to, but one can still take the same precautions as they do with driving. If you plan on having more than one or two standard drinks, get a designated carrier (or leave it at home entirely.)
Obviously it would be unsafe and irresponsible for anyone to get drunk or be under the influence while shooting firearms on the range, and would probably be best not to drink at all while actively shooting firearms to be safe. I’m certainly not suggesting people try to recreate the stereotype of the old west, and start openly carrying in bars or saloons and acting like “gunslingers.” Nothing against open carry, I’m simply stating there are certain times that it wouldn’t be appropriate. I’m simply stating that it should not be illegal, nor should it be considered irresponsible for a man to take his wife out to an anniversary dinner, and have one to two standard drinks with their dinner while carrying a firearm.
No one should be forced to be unarmed or defenseless to a deadly force threat just because they want to have two drinks to celebrate a special event with their family. It shouldn’t be a choice between celebrating a special event the way you want to and leaving your family defenseless all while you can still legally and safely operate a car on a public roadway. No, it’s not about prioritizing alcohol, but about living life the way you want if you’re not harming others. Like with most restrictions involving guns, it’s about being able to experience life without having to disarm to do it, whether it be responsibly having a single drink to celebrate a special occasion or visit a state that you’ve always wanted to that doesn’t recognize your right to carry.
It’s all about individual responsibility, which goes hand-in-hand with individual liberty. As most folks in the gun community or “gun culture,” seem to know when it comes to other aspects of “gun control” laws, criminals and the criminally irresponsible will carry a firearm however they wish, regardless of the laws. It’s only the responsible people who follow the law. So laws that ban drinking a drop of alcohol while carrying only disarm the responsible husband who is taking his wife out for their anniversary and only plans on having a glass of wine with his wife, or the father taking his son out for a single beer to celebrate his son’s college graduation. It does nothing to deter the outlaw biker, thug or irresponsible idiot from being armed while consuming alcohol at a restaurant or shady bar.