Are legal guns in bars a good idea?

Yes.  Next question.

Bar owner calls  customer a hero for fatally shooting 2 robbers

It’s 2:30 AM in a Houston bar.  The bartender and a waitress are closing up and a couple of patrons are still sitting at the bar when 4 armed robbers burst in. [I don’t know if the news story got the time right, legal closing is 2:00 AM].

Two of the bad guys rush toward the bar with guns drawn, shouting at everyone to get on the floor.  A customer at the bar pulls his own gun and starts shooting the robbers, they fire back with 3 shots, but without effect.  The customer fires several times hitting at least two of the robbers, who flee. One robber expires just outside the front door, and another dies in the parking lot. The other two get away.  The customer who shot them also flees the scene.  The customer may come to regret that, depending on who he is and why he fled.

The bar has video, the owner is cooperating with police to locate the other two robbers and the customer who fled.

Closing time robberies of bars is becoming common for one reason. Bars have cash, and at closing time is when they have the most cash.  Robbers are looking for places with cash because the widespread use of credit cards means lots of retail establishments don’t have much cash on hand these days.  Closing time robberies have shown to be the most dangerous to the innocent people who are likely to be there at that time, employees, owners, and lingering late night customers.

A bar on a busy street in Denver was robbed at closing time a couple of years ago and several of the employees and customers were shot dead.  Three gunman attempted to rob a bar in Milwaukee at closing time brandishing guns. The bartender pulled a shotgun from behind the bar and killed one of the robbers, and the other two fled. They were later apprehended by police. My distant memory recalls a local news story of a bowling alley that sells beer on South Broadway in Littleton, Colorado being robbed at closing time with several employees killed.  Shortly after the Columbine High School incident in Highlands Ranch, Colorado a nearby Subway restaurant was robbed at closing time and two teenage employees killed.  Subway, being of the fast-food type, most patrons pay in cash.

Closing time is a dangerous time for cash businesses.  Colorado’s death row inmate Nathan Dunlap killed 4 people in an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese, at or near closing time.  His motive was revenge, not robbery, but closing time was when he felt most comfortable carrying out his evil business.

Given that bars are attractive robbery targets due to their cash business, there is every reason to allow law-abiding bar patrons with CCW permits to carry their guns into bars for their personal defense.  While it’s also true that bars are often places where shootouts occur, it’s not law-abiding citizens with permits who are involved.  The sort of bad guys who engage in violent altercations are not deterred by gun laws.  That’s no reason to leave the innocent at the mercy of those who have no mercy.

Colorado has issued concealed carry permits to law-abiding citizens since it became a state. Colorado has never banned those citizens from legally carrying their guns into bars (it is illegal, however, to be in possession of a gun while intoxicated).  To my knowledge, legal carrying into bars has never presented a problem for law enforcement.  Apparently, it’s not the good guys who get liquored up and start gunfights.

The so-called “Cowboy State” of Wyoming has always done just the opposite and banned legal guns in bars unless the majority of the revenue is from other than alcohol.  In Wyoming it is legal to carry into a restaurant that also serves liquor, but not into the bar area of the restaurant. This is a dumb law because most restaurant customers pay with credit cards. Except possibly fast-food establishments, these businesses don’t have as much cash on hand as bars, and are not as likely a target for robbery.

Letting the good people have a fighting chance against villains can have salutary effects by making bars and other businesses with large amounts of cash less attractive to predators.  Utah is another state that allows permit holders to carry in bars, and I’ve never heard anyone from the Utah Department of Public Safety say that was any kind of problem.  Like Colorado though, you certainly don’t want be intoxicated while in possession of a firearm.  That will always get you in serious trouble.

The customer who shot two robbers in Houston fled after it was over. Perhaps he thought he had drunk too much and would be in trouble for being in possession of a firearm while intoxicated. Perhaps he was not the sort of good guy that should be allowed to have a gun in a bar, perhaps he had outstanding warrants.  Whatever, he was acting as a good guy at that moment and he probably saved some innocent people.  He shouldn’t have run though because the bar has video and he’ll likely be found.  Flight equals guilt of some kind in the minds of most people, cops and prosecutors especially.

UPDATE: The customer who ran away is said to be a regular who stays until closing and has walked female patrons to their cars at night. Appears to be a something of a good Samaritan. That means they know who he is and he’ll have some explaining to do. The old saw of “Don’t talk to the police” mainly applies to the guilty. The not guilty make a mistake to follow that rule because the cops will form an opinion about what happened that may be wrong.

See also: Advantage: Good Guys

  • TMats

    I see your point, but I’ve made a practice of staying away from my firearms whenever I have ANYTHING to drink. I hear the “judged by 12, rather than carried by 6,” argument loud and clear, but the outcome of a bar shooting–if you’ve been drinking, is not something I would want to contemplate. Easy for me though, don’t go to bars anymore.

  • TeeJaw

    I also do not drink anything while carrying. Any amount of alcohol in your blood can hurt you in the legal aftermath of a self defense shooting. I also don’t go to bars anymore. But for a lot of people the neighborhood bar is a community gathering place, especially in Eastern cities. Several decades ago I lived in Pennsylvania where this is especially the case. I was young and enjoyed playing pool in such places. I never saw much drunken or disorderly conduct in those bars. Most of the people were pretty decent folks, these where Cheers type bars, “Where everyone knows your name.” I see no reason for a law that makes these people vulnerable to criminals. [It’s legal in Pennsylvania for permit holders to carry in a restaurant that serves alcohol. That will include most bars, I don’t believe there is a bar in Pennsylvania that does not also serve food. Maybe it’s a requirement for a liquor license]

    The five victims of the robbery of Fero’s Bar & Grill on South Colorado Blvd. in Denver during the wee hours of October 17, 2012 were all shot dead before the killers set the building on fire in an attempt to cover their crime. Someone with a legally carried gun might have stopped the whole thing from happening, or at least lowered the death toll. In Colorado, it would have been legal if the person had a CCW permit, but in most of this country, including Wyoming, it would not have been legal. Three men all in their twenties were arrested the next day.

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