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:
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.
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.
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.