Anytime we pick up a gun, we are taking on an awesome responsibility. Obviously, when we decide to carry a firearm in public, everything we do takes on additional responsibility as well as risk. Most of you know that. Today we’re going to discuss why you should avoid combining firearms and alcohol.
Carrying a Gun Raises the Stakes
Now and then, it pays to remind ourselves of the factors involved when we add alcohol or any other mind-altering substance to the mix. For the purposes of this article, when I use the term “alcohol,” consider it to include any other intoxicant as well.
Most people will immediately think of the various legal aspects of carry and alcohol. Unfortunately, the laws vary considerably from state to state. State statutes cover a wide range of situations, from where you can carry to how much you can drink.
Check Your State’s Laws on Carrying and Drinking
For example, here in Florida, you can carry your firearm into an establishment that serves alcohol, provided you sit in the “food service” area. But you may not sit at the bar, even if you are not drinking at all! We’re trying to change it, but for now, it’s what we have to follow.
A more sensible approach is the rule in my former home state of Minnesota. There, you can legally carry in any bar or restaurant that serves alcohol. Why? Because the issue there (as it should be everywhere, in my humble opinion) is not where you happen to be sitting, but whether or not you are carrying your gun while impaired.
In Minnesota, “carrying while intoxicated” is defined as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04% or above. However, every state has different rules. Some focus on where you can carry; others use BAC as the yardstick. Still others are somewhat “flexible” in how they can be interpreted. I urge you to look up your state’s regulations and read them carefully.
The last thing you want is to find yourself arrested because you technically violated some obscure law you weren’t even aware existed. As the old legal axiom says, “Ignorance of the law is never a defense.”
Simple Solution: Don’t Combine Firearms and Alcohol
Whenever I cover this topic in a class, I always suggest that my students avoid alcohol altogether when carrying. After all, abstaining has no downside. But becoming involved in a shooting with even a small amount of alcohol in your bloodstream can have serious repercussions.
Even if you were within the “legal limit” in your state, juries react negatively to the knowledge that you were “drinking and carrying a gun.” Note that a savvy prosecutor can bring in a medical expert who will testify that “even a small amount of alcohol” can affect behavior.
Research has shown that judgment is the first thing to be impaired, long before any sense of intoxication is even felt. Imagine how your jury might react when they hear that your “judgment may have been affected” at the time of the shooting. It could cast doubt on every aspect of your testimony. Why hand that kind of ammunition to a prosecutor?
Prevention Is Always a Win
Given all the negative possibilities that are brought about by drinking while carrying, it seems smart to simply not do it. It’s the same as going out of our way to avoid conflicts such as road rage or escalating frivolous arguments.
Be smart. Play to win.
About John Caile
NRA Certified Instructor John Caile has more than 35 years of experience in the firearms industry. This includes training others in concealed carry and practical handgun shooting. As the Communications Director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, he was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John has appeared on national talk radio, network and public television, and is a contributing writer for Concealed Carry Magazine. He continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida.