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(This post is an entry in our spring content contest. The grand prize is a Beretta APX pistol. Entries have closed and we will announce the winner one we have run the best entries received.)

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.

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  1. Even if you’re stinking drunk a fi rearm in a hols ter is no more dangerous than car keys in your pocket. Unless they come out, no harm will happen to anyone. Although, if you use your weapon in legitimate self defen se while intoxicated it could land you in legal trouble, but like the author said, would you rather be dead?

  2. I often have a drink or two during a plinking session with friends and family. As for being drunk, that is a behavior I avoid altogether, guns or not. I have yet to find a reason worthy of reducing my sensory perception abilities and reaction times to that level. YMMV

  3. “It’s all about individual responsibility, which goes hand-in-hand with individual liberty.”

    Nail, meet hammer.

    Well written. Good points. Good job, and I don’t just say that because I’ve been arguing about this for awhile.

    • In Tennessee, liberals and liberal republicans use “guns and alcohol don’t mix” as a justification to uphold gun bans at sporting events college campuses and concerts. Even if the concert or sporting event in question is happening in a public space, even though “guns in parks” has been legal since 2011. If you tell them ” all because it’s a concert doesn’t mean everyone is drinking”, they look at you like your from mars.

      • Hmm, I carried at Riverbend for the whole festival and at least one Chattanooga LEO was aware of it and had no problem. I know because I asked him (being from out of state).

        • Yeah it’s totally legal to carry in all public spaces including parks in TN. The issue arises mainly in Nashville where our extremely liberal mayor wanted a carve out for the Ascend Amphitheater, which was built as a public park that could also host concerts. The legislature said no so the city council “rented” the entire public space to live nation and they put up chain link fences to keep the public out of the pubic park. All to prevent people from carrying at open air events because “guns and alcohol don’t mix”.

    • neither do i, there is a half bottle of crown royal in my freezer that has lasted almost 3 years, I may have an occasional whiskey and coke before bed lol

  4. Most people perform many tasks better when slightly lubricated. Alcohol is a performance enhancing drug – until you reach that tipping point. Alcohol is banned from most firearm competitions for this very reason – they aren’t worried about safety – it’s that you can breathe better, lower your heart rate and steady your hand. Not to mention making your movements more smooth.

    • Well…it’s Colorado
      I shoot better after a couple hits of cannabis. 4 hits and I get too fascinated by the cocking serrations flashing in the light, but 2 allows me to focus on my shooting and not get distracted.

  5. >>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.
    >>Take Utah for example; if one can legally drive (under a .08 BAC,) one can legally carry.

    Having seen my share of crashes done by drivers who “just sniffed it”, I consider being on the same road with 0.8pm driver to be very bad idea. Few people are relatively unimpaired by this amount of ethanol. Even fewer can objectively judge their own degree of impairment.

    • I’m not advocating for being hammered and driving And people very much should know their limit and not exceed it.

      But if you’re anything beyond unable to do a long handstand .008, you should avoid alcohol unless you’re at home. .010 was a joke too, but at least it was closer to actually impaired. Last I saw the stats, the average DWI was FST around .014 – that’s when people start making serious mistakes. And alkies? When you catch one, they’re usually north of .020 – 023.

      (Yes, I use the old metric, not the current one, which, like most marketing tricks, is designed to make less sound like more.)

      • “And alkies? When you catch one, they’re usually north of .020 – 023.”

        A couple years back, I happened to see a mugshot of a woman I was with in the early 90’s.

        She got popped for DUI over 4X but less than 5X .08.

        For all rights she should have been comatose. From my personal experiences with heavy drinking, it’s surprising how well one can function with a BAC that would qualify as DUI.

        And no, I don’t miss it. Took a bit to get to that point…

        • 1970s Los Angeles, a female pedestrian was picked up for drunk in public and endangering herself and others. She was .50+. For those who do not know, that’s 50% of her blood was ethanol (ethanol is the actual name of the chemical, not alcohol).

          Ethanol is naturally produced by the human body. People with diabetes actually produce more ethanol. The affects of ethanol are impacted by the individual’s size, what they drink, over how much time. Therefore, what might put one person over the line may have less impact than on another. The human body gives off ethanol at an AVERAGE rate of .02 per hour.

          All these factors make it near impossible to determine who may be safe and who may be impaired. In the words of Dirty Harry…. “a man’s got to know his limitations”. Add to that, he also has to take responsibility for his actions.

          It would scare the devil out of most people to know how many people are on the roads of the nation in an impaired state due to alcohol, drugs, and mental and physical health issues.

        • “She was .50+. For those who do not know, that’s 50% of her blood was ethanol (ethanol is the actual name of the chemical, not alcohol).”

          Dave W, congratulations. That’s the most ignorant comment on TTAG. This year. Did you sleep through math class when they taught the meaning of “percent?”

          0.50% is half a percent, or 1/200 of the blood was alcohol. Yes, that’s enough to kill most people. Alcoholics do develop quite a tolerance for it.

          By the way, ethanol is one of many types of alcohol. Neither term is incorrect when referring to intoxicating beverages.

      • I hear you, but consider that “impairement” is relative term. Ethanol, like any other toxin, does not hit everyone equally (on average, having above 0.5pm (0.05%) in one’s bloodstream is a border of getting slower, with messed-up depth perception – but then nothing proves that each and every person will be affected same way), and I am yet to see a person who willingly conducted, for lack of better term, peer-reviewed study of his or hers capabilities when affected by substance.

        The amount of impairement will vary, and its impact (or lack thereof) on possible outcome of activity is not given, too. A person with above-legal BAC might be able to make 50km drive on rural roads, in daylight, keeping speed way under limit. Toss in nighttime, sudden desire to step on pedal, and the probability of slower reaction and so-slightly impaired perception and judgement biting one’s ass gets higher. Toss in heavier traffic, and it skyrockets.

        • Kaban, Please feel free to speak with researchers, I have. Good luck getting grant money for any significant study that shows alcohol as even temporarily positive vis-a-vis driving (or anything else). Even if you fund it out of pocket, good luck publishing (let alone peer review) on anything that says you actually are better with a coupla drinks behind the wheel.

          When actual science can’t support the desired narrative, it either doesn’t get done, or it doesn’t get talked about.

    • “Having seen my share of crashes done by drivers who “just sniffed it”…”

      Yeah, but how many of them really did “just sniff it”? Virtually every drunk I’ve seen talking to the cops, even if they’re falling down wasted says they only had one or two. You’re not accounting for the people who are just drunk and lying.

      • >>You’re not accounting for the people who are just drunk and lying.

        That’s what I meant. Guess my “excellent” English shows up 🙂

        I figure most DUI drivers are below 1pm (or 0.1 BAC). Not enough to just head to the ditch or fall asleep, but enough for bravado.

  6. Of course, guns and alcohol certainly do mix. In fact, when re-bluing a gun, you have to use isopropyl alcohol first to remove any residue that would mess up a new finish. But don’t drink that sh!t, ’cause it’ll kill ya.

  7. I tried mixing alcohol with guns once. But honestly a shaker worked better, and also there was no gun oil after taste.

  8. I shoot a lot better when drunk. I can shoot 5 shot groups smaller than the diameter of the bullet! Shooting and driving while drunk are my favorite activities. I encourage everyone here to join DAMM……(drunks against mad mothers). They send you a free six pack and a years membership in the NRA! CHEERS!!!!!

  9. All things in moderation right? Or, It’s not the substance that’s poison, it’s the dose. A drink doesn’t impair me, a cookie doesn’t make me fat, an impulse purchase doesn’t make me poor, a cigar won’t give me cancer, seeing a pretty girl on the beach isn’t cheating, ect. But all of those things can ruin your life if you lack self control and can’t self impose reasonable limits.

    I don’t get blackout drunk and I rarely have more than two drinks in a sitting outside of my house.

  10. “It’s all about individual responsibility, which goes hand-in-hand with individual liberty.”
    Welll said.

  11. Good article. Glad to see most commenters in agreement. Drinking, like smoking and a number of other even more innocent behaviors, has been demonized by outfits such as MADD, outfits which I lump under the term Safety Nazis. Utopians, the germ of liberalism. People who think nothing bad should ever happen (a silly wish), and that if it does, that can be fixed by allowing them to control your behavior (very bad, fascistic).

    Drinking is part of normal life for many people. It enhances life. Many poets have written much about how fine the wine is. It’s legal, it’s good, but the minute something bad happens and there’s as much as an open container on the premises, those involved are screwed. They were drinking, drinking was involved.

    When something bad happens and alcohol can be connected to it, it will be, never mind what really happened, and the whole process resembles a witch hunt. The stat you hear about the number of accidents caused by drinking, or by drunk drivers, includes those in which the at fault driver is cold sober. If the innocent vehicle just has an open container, or some one in it, even a passenger, had one drink, that accident is tagged alcohol related and you will find it reported as caused by alcohol.

    • ” The stat you hear about the number of accidents caused by drinking, or by drunk drivers, includes those in which the at fault driver is cold sober.”

      I know of a case in which a young chap did prison time for “drunk driving causing death” when he was driving down a divided highway and he hit cross traffic which blew through a stop sign. I mentioned to a friend that it seemed unfair if not ridiculous to me, and my friend said “if he wasn’t drunk, maybe he could have avoided hitting them”. MADD has brainwashed us well, I guess.

  12. I came home from the range last Friday, went on the porch and had a bourbon and a cigar. Had another bourbon. Had another bourbon and another cigar. The sun set, I came inside. Wife said “Are you going to clean your guns?”
    Nope. For some reason I just wasn’t comfortable UNLOADING my pistol. I set it in the drawer where it lives. I usually don’t have an issue – I don’t drink much at all – but that time something wasn’t quite comfortable

  13. Back in the day alcohol was seen as a performance enhancing drug in the shooting scene. Kinda like how you’re better at pool after a few beers…and you f course worse after a few more. It helps to keep you steady at the right amount.


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