Bloomberg’s Class Warfare

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I recently received an e.mail from the billionaire Wall Street financier, and former New York city mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Well, it was actually his pet project, Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun control organization. As a socialist, I’m highly skeptical of most any agenda pushed by front groups for the ultra-wealthy, (Bloomberg being only one of many billionaires on their advisory board) and this was no exception. At any rate, their communication was promoting a new video by the comedian Rachel Dratch. Here is her written introduction:

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I can think of a lot of things that don’t go well with drinking alcohol: Calling your ex. Performing heart surgery. Knitting. A loaded firearm. We can all agree that mixing that stuff with alcohol makes for a pretty dangerous cocktail. That’s why I was shocked to learn that you can legally carry a loaded gun in places that serve alcohol in 49 out of 50 states. Who thought this was a good idea?! And it’s just one of the crazy gun laws the NRA has fought for in statehouses across the country. The good news is, there’s something people like you and me can do about it: Check out the video I made about “What Could Go Wrong?” when guns and alcohol mix. Then, sign up to get involved to stop the gun lobby from pushing their extreme laws in your community. I spent my comedy career on Saturday Night Live doing some pretty ridiculous stuff. But “let’s allow guns in bars” is the kind of idea that’s too ridiculous to make up. And it’s being pushed by the same extremists who want guns in mental institutions, day care centers, and in the hands of felons and domestic abusers. It’s going to take people like you and me — sane, reasonable people — standing up to these reckless laws in our neighborhoods, cities, and states, if we want to keep our families safe.

Besides irresponsibly asserting that anyone actually desires arming mental patients or violent abusers, Dratch handily distorts consuming alcohol with a far from universal end result: murderous-drunkenness. It’s a bizarre oversimplification to imagine having casual drinks turns average people into staggering menaces who can’t be trusted with knitting needles or would shoot up a bar Wild West style given the opportunity. Nobody would survive a happy hour if that were true. Also, the worst likely scenario involving knitting and drinking is a tacky scarf. People don’t down several beers and then immediately jab craft tools into their eyeballs. Given that people are far more likely to drink themselves to death than be fatally shot, it might seem alcohol is the more relevant social problem.

The set up Dratch implies, is that guns will turn bars into homicide scenes over minor disagreements. Subtract the guns, no more problem. However, as she admits, most states allow properly licensed persons to legally carry concealed firearm in such establishments already. Therefore, her fear isn’t some hypothetical worry. It’s something we can examine the facts on.

Bureau of Justice statistics conveniently arrange criminal acts, so that a breakdown can be viewed covering violent incidents within restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Interestingly, the yearly average for 2004-08 was 4.4% of total. About the same as visiting a neighbors residence or the sidewalk in front of your own. However, far less than inside your home (17.6%) and in school or on school property (13%). These numbers include all violence, not just involving guns. In other words, despite bars potentially containing alcohol and firearms, they are still much safer than individual residences or schools. The school point is significant, because while homes often pair both alcohol and guns, schools should be relatively spared from drinking and are often considered gun-free zones. In other words, social violence  remains foremost a social issue– not a gun, knife or tools-of-violence issue. This needs to be stressed, because gun control arguments easily play into simplified causation scenarios, obscuring complex societal problems.

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The video heavily reinforces gun-owner stereotypes. Dratch cheerfully hams it up, portraying a harried suburban mother who takes her family out to a restaurant. There, her children are horrified, seeing rifles propped against the bar and casually resting near white men wearing baseball-caps and clean flanels. Climax arrives when a shotgun is accidentally knocked over, though it fails to discharge. Curiously, the video doesn’t even address Dratch’s stated concern: that concealed weapons make bars violent, instead humorously suggesting unconcealed long guns will cause accidents. There are no statistics available regarding accidental firearm deaths in bars, but I suspect it is greatly infrequent.

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It’s understandable some people fear guns in places that serve alcohol. Of course, people do get drunk and make poor life choices. Indeed, the father of a dear friend of mine was shot and paralyzed years ago, following a bar altercation. As for myself, I’ve carried a gun hundreds of times in divebars, nightclubs or upscale lounges. In those circumstances, I elect against drinking excessively. Everyone that I know who carries, exercises similar judgment. The low rate of bar violence, compared to other locations, implies this is common restraint.

But why carry in a bar if they’re so safe? Well, fatality statistics don’t tell the whole story. I remember one of the Portland Pink Pistols telling me years ago, about encountering several men savagely beating another outside a gay club. Simply the sight of his gun was enough to halt the assault. Another good friend of mine was nearly stabbed to death by racial skinheads while walking home from a Portland bar. Also, people employed in the service industry tend to work odd hours and carry cash. Circumstances like that attract predators who might be further encouraged if people leaving bars were known as vulnerable targets.

Everytown for Gun Safety is an organization representing interests of the notorious wealthiest 1%. People who don’t work long hours earning tips or catch the last bus home at dark transit stops. Social elites dwelling in gated communities with private security, who know 911 would always respond in emergencies. Most Americans don’t possess that assurance and for some, a concealed pistol might be the worst case ticket home to their families. A percentage are even baseball-cap-wearing white men, but that is hardly universal. Indeed, people from every background rely on guns for protection. I know, because many share it with me, often laughing that because of stereotypes, they would never tell friends, family or co-workers. American’s don’t need rich men like Bloomberg proclaiming simplified solutions for very real problems. Reducing the number of places marginalized populations can exercise self defense is simply regressive class warfare.

6 thoughts on “Bloomberg’s Class Warfare

  1. Jurjen S.

    In addition, there are a few other aspects about the phrase “guns in bars” that are disingenuous at best.

    First is that “establishment that serves alcohol” is not synonymous with “bar.” States like Texas and Washington distinguish between establishments whose primary business is something other than serving alcoholic beverages (restaurants, bowling alleys, etc.) on the one hand, and establishments whose primary source of revenue is selling alcoholic beverages (i.e. bars) on the other; carrying a firearm is permitted in the former but not the latter.

    Second, in states that don’t make this legal distinction (Tennessee is an example, I believe), it is typically illegal to consume alcohol while carrying. “But what’s to stop you from drinking anyway?” I hear Ms Dratch ask. The answer is: the same thing that would stop you from carrying in a bar if doing so were illegal. Which may be your personal sense if responsibility, your inclination to obey the law, or in the case of some people, nothing at all (though those latter people are unlikely to be concealed carry permit holders); point being, whatever it is, it applies in either case.

    Reply
  2. davidyamane

    Really interesting and appreciated post. Beyond the points you made, I think the whole issue of people legally carrying with permits in bars (where allowed by law) is an interesting one. After passing shall issue concealed carry in 1995, North Carolina allowed concealed carry in bars (unless posted by the owners) beginning in 2013. But the previous law prohibiting ANY alcohol consumption while carrying — in bars or anywhere else — still applies. NC Statute: “It shall be unlawful for a person, with or without a permit, to carry a concealed handgun while consuming alcohol or at any time while the person has remaining in the person’s body any alcohol or in the person’s blood a controlled substance previously consumed, but a person does not violate this condition if a controlled substance in the person’s blood was lawfully obtained and taken in therapeutically appropriate amounts or if the person is on the person’s own property.”

    I am pretty sure Tennessee has the same restriction as North Carolina. I haven’t looked at every state that allows bar carry, but I wonder how many of them do not allow alcohol consumption while carrying? I know Illinois allows you to be up to 0.08 BAC while carrying (same rules as for driving apply), but no carry in bars or restaurants with more than 50% of income from alcohol.

    Reply
  3. andrew belanger

    I disagree with the general tenure here. I think that here in the US it’s fairly safe to say that no large groups of gun carrying leftist radicals assemble in restaurants or bars ( as they actually do in many nations of the world). In short, there is no oppposition outside of mothers and fathers to the challenter presented. It is very easy to say that because of the one sided ‘arming’ . Let’s imagine a very real scenario where a group of armed, white drinkers watch a group of equally armed Black Panthers come in for a drink. I can feel you temperature rising already. Think about the chaos that would ensue. Most towns in the very real ‘wild west’ had no-firearms laws for just that reason. Its a reality that only those who believe that they will be a vast horde outgunning a lone rapist or burglar can’t even comprehend. The tide turns. There were a lot of entitled people in France, Russia, Cuba, Vietnam,, China ( the list is long) that were surprised right out of their shorts when Radical armed leftists showed up. It was never pretty. Count your blessings that right now in our peaceful nation that the right to bear arms argument is so one sided. I have personally seen what a group of left wing exteremists can do. And I bear witness to you that you don’t either. Stop playing with a fire that can all too soon engulf your nation. The ‘cowboy’ fairy tale isn’t a safe place for adult Americans to stand.

    Reply
    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      Thanks for your comments, Andrew. My own experience is contrasting. Back when I was regularly joining up with Portland’s chapter of the national gay gun club, the Pink Pistols, we regularly held meetings in a local bar. Plus, in 2010, I organized an evening called “Might: Not Just for the Right” which was a fundraiser for the fairly right-wing Oregon Firearms Federation (somewhat comparable to the GOA). We had members of the armed queer community, leftists from the Reed College gun club and black anarchist activists, all mingling with various conservatives and libertarians, having drinks at a Portland punk rock venue and contributing money for a joint cause. I remember one of the largest donations came from a local marijuana grower. The temperature only rose later on, when people started dancing. The stereotype that only conservatives are armed is just that, a stereotype, and thank the gods for that! I’m very personally aware of what right wing extremists can do, as mentioned in the examples from my article, from gay bashing to nearly murdering my friend.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Bloomberg, Alcohol, and Guns | Gun Culture 2.0

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