Today a new law went into effect in Virginia allowing people to bring concealed weapons into bars and other venues, such as restaurants and nightclubs, that serve alcohol - so long as they don't drink. (If they do drink and carry, they can get up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000.)
Backers of the law say there is no reason they should not be able to keep their firearms with them when entering a restaurant - both for convenience and protection. (The bad guys, they suggest, have their own weapons, and they aren't constrained by the law.)
"It's not like alcohol suddenly jumps from their glass into my veins and suddenly I got a problem," Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, told The Associated Press. "And indeed, if there is somebody drinking in there and suddenly they pull a knife and start to stab people or whatever, I want to be able to protect myself."
Critics, meanwhile, warn that bars and firearms are a dangerous combination. "Guns and alcohol don't mix under any circumstances," according to gun violence protection advocate Lori Haas. Haas' daughter was wounded in the Virginia Tech Massacre.
"You come into a bar, sit down and have a good time," Virginian Mike Sexton told WDBJ7. "You don't know if the man beside you has got problems, got a gun in his pocket. You don't know who's carrying, who's got 'em."
Hundreds of guns rights backers planned to mark the enactment of the law today by carrying their weapons into restaurants. It's not all they have to celebrate: On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that state and local governments cannot significantly limit the right to keep and bear arms - though they can potentially enact commonsense regulations.
Other gun-related measures going into effect today in Virginia include laws that "eliminate the penalty for transporting a firearm secured in a vehicle's locked compartment, allow for the renewal of concealed firearms permits by mail, and require court clerks to immediately notify those denied a concealed handgun permit of the right to appeal," as the AP reports.
Virginia is far from alone in allowing concealed weapons in bars: A similar measure went into effect today in New Mexico, and more than 40 states now allow concealed weapons in at least some establishments serving alcohol.
Owners in New Mexico and Virginia do have the option to prohibit weapons in their establishments by posting signs - something Albuquerque restaurant owner Marie Coleman suggested to the AP she is considering.
"What if somebody was to have a glass of wine here and then leave and then shoot somebody? Would I be responsible for that? There's a lot of things that just aren't very clear about it," she said.
Counters Albuquerque restaurant owner Rick Camuglia in the same story: "They say what's going to happen with the concealed carry, people are going to get drunk, and it's going to be like an old West shootout in my restaurant. It's the most ridiculous thing I've heard of in my life."
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