Virginia's bars and restaurants did not turn into shooting galleries as some had feared during the first year of a new state law that allows patrons with permits to carry concealed guns into alcohol-serving businesses, a Richmond Times-Dispatch analysis found.
The number of major crimes involving firearms at bars and restaurants statewide declined 5.2 percent from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, compared with the fiscal year before the law went into effect, according to crime data compiled by Virginia State Police at the newspaper's request.
And overall, the crimes that occurred during the law's first year were relatively minor, and few of the incidents appeared to involve gun owners with concealed-carry permits, the analysis found.
A total of 145 reported crimes with guns occurred in Virginia bars and restaurants in fiscal 2010-11, or eight fewer than the 153 incidents in fiscal 2009-10. State police track all murders, non-negligent manslaughters, aggravated assaults, forcible sex crimes and robberies in more than two dozen categories, including "bars/nightclubs" and "restaurants."
"The numbers basically just confirm what we've said would happen if the General Assembly changed the law," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, which strongly lobbied for the law's change that made Virginia one of 43 states to allow concealed guns in restaurants that serve alcohol. "It's sort of a big yawn. So from my point of view, none of this is surprising."
"Keep in mind," Van Cleave added, "what the other side was saying — that this was going to be a blood bath, that restaurants will be dangerous and people will stop going. But there was nothing to base the fear-mongering on."
State Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, who was a strong opponent of the law, said it's not clear what conclusions can be drawn from just a year's worth of data.
"Most folks obey the law, and that's a good thing," said McEachin, who remains staunchly opposed. "But I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that just like drinking and driving doesn't mix, guns and drinking don't mix."
David Rittgers, an attorney and decorated former Army special forces officer who is now a legal policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the growing number of states that are adopting concealed-carry measures like Virginia's have seen no appreciable rise — and in some cases a decline — in violent crime.
"The worst that you can say about these laws is that they are statistically value neutral" in terms of impacting the crime rate, Rittgers said.
Rittgers said states that have enacted such concealed-carry legislation — "even when they've done some relatively restrictive provisions upfront" — have relaxed those over time "because of the lack of violent incidents that might be connected with persons carrying concealed (weapons) with a permit."
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At The Times-Dispatch's request, state police pulled from their computerized database all major crimes at bars and restaurants reported by local law-enforcement agencies across Virginia for two successive fiscal years. The Times-Dispatch then contacted more than a dozen police departments in Virginia for more detailed information on all aggravated assaults, homicides and sexual assaults involving firearms at those businesses.[/QUOTE]
I'm probably against this type of measure, but not excessively so. I'm not surprised that allowing this type of carrying has not increased the number of gun related crimes in restaurants. I have no doubt that an overwhelming majority of gun owners who are carrying are indeed responsible.
I'm wondering though, in jurisdictions that allow fire arms in establishments that allow carrying of fire arms, what is the punishment for brandishing a fire arm in the midst of an altercation? I'm not talking about someone trying to rob you and you pulling out your gun in self defense. I'm talking about someone calling Tom Brady a p*ssy on account of a guy wearing a Pats shirt and the discussion escalating to the more heated level. If someone who's been drinking (and is legally intoxicated) takes out a weapon (whether or not they fire it), what type of crime are we talking about, if at all?
I would hope that its significant enough that it would deter people from defaulting to relying on their weapon in the event of a small to medium sized disagreement.
On the flip side, I suppose carrying a gun might stave off your run of the mill bar brawl.