North Carolina Is on the Brink of Allowing Guns in Bars. That’s a Really Terrible Idea.

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
July 26 2013 5:29 PM

North Carolina Is on the Brink of Allowing Guns in Bars. That’s a Really Terrible Idea.

A handgun
The last thing you want to see in a bar

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

As Dahlia Lithwick noted earlier this week, the Republican-dominated North Carolina state legislature has gone a bit bonkers, passing all manner of ridiculous legislation. One example: On Tuesday, legislators signed off on a bill that will allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring a concealed gun to a bar unless the owner explicitly prohibits it.

This sounds like an incredibly bad idea. And guess what? It is. As common sense would lead you to believe and scientific research supports, alcohol impairs both a gun owner’s accuracy and judgment, meaning that a tavern full of drinking buddies packing heat is best avoided.

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Researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that behaviors like binge drinking and chronic heavy alcohol abuse are more common among gun owners than those who don’t own guns. In addition, about one-third of firearm-related deaths involve alcohol. The 2011 study also discovered that among gun owners, heavy alcohol abuse was more common in those who carried concealed weapons.

And that’s not all. A recent study published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior that surveyed 77 convicted murderers found that 93 percent of impulsive murderers (those who kill as a “defensive reaction to a perceived threat” and don’t plan the murder in advance) had a history of drug or alcohol abuse.

The Tar Heel State is not setting a precedent here. Tennessee passed the first guns-in-bars law in 2009, and at least six states have followed suit. (For what it’s worth, the Tennessee legislator who sponsored that state’s bill was arrested in 2011 for driving under the influence with a loaded handgun by his side.)

Not all the news here is bad. While it’s pretty clear that liquor is not great when combined with weapons, the mere presence of guns in bars might not increase boozy duels. Virginia has already passed a law similar to North Carolina’s proposed one, and a year after it was enacted, the Richmond Times-Dispatch conducted an analysis to see what happened. The results? Gun violence in bars actually decreased by about 5 percent in the year after the law was enacted. This study, like the one on impulsive murder cited above, had a small sample size, but its results hopefully indicate that North Carolina won’t have a drunken bloodbath on its hands.

Regardless, it’s tempting fate to allow guns where liquor is poured freely. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory will likely sign the bill, but perhaps he should heed the words of Winston-Salem, N.C., Mayor Allen Joines: “Guns and alcohol do not mix.”*

Correction, July 29, 2013: This post originally misspelled Gov. Pat McCrory's last name.

Ciara McCarthy is a Slate intern.

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