Guns in bars, restaurants recipe for trouble

info@islandpacket.comApril 25, 2013 

Most people would agree that guns and alcohol don't mix.

So why allow people to carry concealed weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol?

The state Senate voted 33-5 on Tuesday to do just that. The bill is now in the House, which passed a similar measure last year.

Lawmakers who pushed for the change in state law say it allows people to carry guns while having dinner in restaurants and while walking to and from their vehicles so they can protect themselves.

That's a fairly limited reason to introduce guns into that situation, and the bill doesn't distinguish between bars and restaurants because existing state law doesn't distinguish between the two. You can see from the restrictions that would be placed on people who bring a gun into these establishments that lawmakers recognize there could be trouble.

Anyone carrying a concealed weapon cannot drink alcohol. It prohibits gun carriers from hanging out too near a bar, and it prohibits carrying weapons in bars and restaurants serving alcohol between midnight and 5 a.m.

How these provisions would be enforced and by whom is not clear. These are concealed weapons after all. Unless a customer revealed that he or she was carrying a gun, how would a bartender or server know not to serve them alcohol or ask them to move away from the bar or ask them to leave or remove their weapon, as the bill allows?

Those who break the law would face up to $3,000 in fines and three years in prison and would have their concealed carry permit suspended for five years.

Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, who proposed limits on the hours one could carry a gun into these businesses, said allowing people to carry guns into bars late at night could impede law enforcement's ability to protect the public.

But why wouldn't that be true at 8 p.m. or 11 p.m., as well as at 1 a.m. or 3 a.m.?

Fortunately, individual bar and restaurant owners would be able to forbid firearms in their establishments. The bill specifies how and where such notices would be posted.

Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, said he expected many to do just that "because they don't want the liability."

Yet another reason to keep the law the way it is.

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