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Guns and alcohol: just don't.


Depending on what state you live in, it might be entirely illegal to set even one foot into an establishment that serves alcohol while carrying a firearm. Or it might be legal to go into a restaurant whose primary purpose is to sell food, but not go into the bar portion of that restaurant (e.g. you can go eat in the dining room at a steakhouse, but not have a nightcap afterward in the bar area). Or, as in my state of Georgia, you might have the legal ability to carry your firearm anywhere alcohol is served, even a bar that doesn't serve food, as long as you aren't intoxicated.

Regardless of what the law says in your state, common sense would tell us that mixing heavy machinery (firearms) and intoxicants (alcohol) is a really bad idea. And by intoxicants I don't mean just booze; if the label on your medication says not to drive or operate heavy machinery while using it, you should understand that handling firearms is also off limits.

Because it's so difficult to find studies on alcohol and firearms that aren't blatantly political in nature, I won't bother quoting many stats here. However, we can do a simple thought experiment to figure out whether alcohol is a common contributor to gun-related tragedies. For instance, we know that alcoholism and suicide are very related, with suicide being 120 times more prevalent among alcoholics than the general population. We also know that alcohol lowers our inhibitions, making what we would normally think are bad ideas seem acceptable, and reducing our natural fear of consequences.

So in this thought experiment, let's consider a man. He's an alcoholic, meaning he's dependent on the substance and uses it regularly enough that it has continuing negative effects on his daily life. Being an alcoholic, he's also 120 times more likely to be suicidal. Being an alcoholic, the inhibitions that might otherwise prevent him from killing himself are drastically lowered. Now let's throw a gun into the mix. What could go wrong here?

But a person doesn't have to be an alcoholic to experience the tragic effects of mixing guns and alcohol. Let's say you bring your usual every day carry (EDC) gun to a party where drinks will be served and many intoxicated people will be meandering about. Now, to paraphrase Tom Givens, every encounter you have with these drunk people is an armed encounter, whether they know it or not. Does mixing potentially belligerent drunks and firearms sound like a great idea?

Or maybe you yourself are planning to throw a few back at the party. You want to be safe on the way there and back, so you carry your usual concealed firearm on your hip. But now you're lowering your own inhibitions while carrying a gun, and you're doing it around people who are also drinking alcohol. How will your situational awareness and ability to avoid trouble be affected by drinking? How much more difficult will it be to verbally deescalate a potentially violent situation while you're not completely sober? And what do you think will happen if you need to use your gun to stop a deadly threat? Whether the shooting was justified or not, have fun explaining to a prosecutor, judge, and jury why you had measurable amounts of alcohol in your system and yet you felt totally comfortable carrying (and eventually using) your gun. Are you getting the picture yet?

Guns and booze do not mix, and it doesn't matter whether you're the one drinking or not. If you will be at a place with lots of drunks, leave your gun at home. Or better yet, avoid places with lots of drunks so that you can continue to stay safe without compromising your freedom. If you plan to drink, don't carry. If you plan to carry, don't drink. Guns fall under the category of heavy machinery and must be operated using the same rules as a car. When using mind-altering substances of any kind, don't drive, and don't carry. It might not be convenient, but it will keep you out of prison or the morgue.

Be alert, be careful, and stay safe out there!

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