Shoot It Down

June 5, 2009

The legislature in my home state is, for some bizarre reason, pushing through a new law to allow gun owners to carry their weapons into bars and restaurants. And this of course begs the question, why? What kind of bars and restaurants are people going into that they feel compelled to bring in their guns? I’ve never been to any place where I felt I needed to be armed. Sure, I once went into a Hard Rock CafĂ© carrying an H-bomb that had "Dear John" painted on one end, but that was a special occasion. I know the argument is that not being able to carry their guns into bars and restaurants is an abridgement of their Second Amendment rights, or at least that’s the argument, but the Second Amendment isn’t a magic bullet, if you’ll pardon the pun, or even if you won’t, although please don’t shoot me for making a bad pun. No right is absolute, and every right comes with responsibilities. It’s an abridgement of my First Amendment rights that I can’t yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, but I’m not going to argue about it. I’ve got an even better example. I was once in a restaurant and a guy a few tables away was talking loudly and peppering his speech with the f-word and other colorful metaphors. The manager finally came out and told the guy he could either be quiet or leave. The guy was just exercising his right of free speech, but that right comes with the responsibility to use free speech appropriately. There’s a time to speak freely and a time to exercise restraint. As Kurt Vonnegut once said, swearing just gives people an excuse to not listen to you, although he also believed there was a time to let go with a few f-words. Even now I could save myself a few keystrokes by typing out the four-letter word instead of "f-word", but it’s a matter of appropriateness. There’s a time and place for certain words and there’s a time to avoid them, and if you can’t tell the difference you’re an asshole.

But I digress. Even though the governor has threatened to veto the law allowing people to carry guns into bars and restaurants it looks like the legislature might be able to override him and pass it anyway. So local bars and restaurants have been saying that, if it does pass, they’ll put up their own restrictions, forbidding anyone to bring guns or other weapons into their places, and, being private property, their rights trump those of the gun owners, although I don’t think it’s fair that bars and restaurants have to take that step. I was once travelling with my parents through the wilds of Michigan and we stopped and had lunch at a place called Ski’s. From the road it looked like a cute little restaurant with a skiing mouse on the sign. When we got close, though, we saw the sign on the door that said, "All guns and knives must be left outside." Needless to say we were scared to go in. The whole reason we have existing laws that state that people can’t carry guns into bars and restaurants in the first place is that on a regular basis people demonstrate that guns and, say, half a bottle of tequila should never be combined. It’s enough of a problem in private homes. Do we really want the local watering hole to turn into the OK Corral? If someone’s packing a piece in a pub it’s a short trip from doing shots to a shootout. Of course some gun owners have argued that it’s not so much about rights, it’s more to do with forgetting that they’re carrying a gun in the first place and they might accidentally walk into a bar or restaurant with their Winchester strapped to their inner thigh. And all I can say to that is, if you’re that forgetful maybe you shouldn’t be carrying a gun in the first place.

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