Alcohol and conceal carry - Important considerations to take into account
First thing's first – just because you're in a bar doesn't mean you can't legally protect yourself. However, depending on which state you're in, there are very specific prohibitions against you carrying your pistol on your person. Before you take a sip of that frosty brew or down a cowboy's shot of whiskey, here's a few things to keep in mind.
State Regulations Prohibiting Concealed Carry While Under the Influence
Each state in this grand union has its own laws and regulations governing the specificity of where and when you can carry a concealed firearm. In order to really know which side of the law you're on, you're going to have to take a look at the laws for your state.
For instance, in the state of Michigan, it is explicitly illegal to consume alcohol and possess a concealed handgun on your person or in your vehicle. And while states such as Alabama allow you to carry a concealed firearm on your person inside a restaurant that serves alcohol, you are legally not allowed to imbibe.
Most states reserve the right to revoke a concealed carry pistol permit under reasonable suspicion and chemical analysis. That means, if a police officer has probable cause that you may have been drinking and you have a weapon on you, he has the authority granted to him by the state to immediately revoke that permit.
The bottom line: check with an attorney if you feel that this situation may come into question. Otherwise, check with your state law and read the material that came with your concealed carry permit. In most cases, the state explicitly outlines what you may and may not do with a holstered pistol on your person or your vehicle.
It doesn't matter if it's in a locked glovebox. Each state specifically outlines where a weapon may be stored if you plan on drinking and almost in all cases the answer is: nowhere near any place you can reasonably or quickly access your firearm.
Everything Will Be Questioned In A Self-Defense Shooting
Another thing to consider is that everything will go under a microscope if you're involved in a self-defense shooting.
You and your state of mind will be questioned. Don't think for an instant that if even IF the shooting you're involved in is textbook self-defense that you'll be hailed as a hero. The legal aftermath depends partially on the law and a whole lot on the police and prosecutors in the area you live in and some of them have a huge problem with anyone with the temerity to save their own life with a firearm.
If you have any alcohol in your system, even if it's less than the drunk driving limit of a BAC of 0.08 percent...that raises the question of whether a claim that you reasonably feared for your life.
Alcohol, as anyone knows, lowers inhibitions. Otherwise normal people can become violent. People can become deluded into thinking that other people really want to hear "Sweet Home Alabama" for the 10-millionth time, when in point of fact everyone would be better off if that song was never played again, anywhere, ever. A person who wouldn't drive drunk thinks "I've only had a few, I'll be alright." And so on and so forth.
To make a long story short, the presence of alcohol in your system can make a shooting incident that looks mostly like a perfect self-defense shooting seem more suspicious.
Look, everything is up to you. You're a grown up and you can make your own choices. The best practice is to not drink while you're carrying. The less there is to question, the better your odds of not being charged and certainly of being convicted.
Murky Gray Area for Concealed Carry in an Alcohol Serving Restaurant
States such as Montana explicitly outline that you cannot carry a concealed firearm into an establishment that serves alcohol while Alabama rides an extremely fuzzy zone.
In cases such as Alabama, where the state has the issuing authority but the county may revoke, there have been conflicting reports on whether or not you can take a pistol into a restaurant with a bar. Anecdotal evidence suggests it may be possible but unless you see it clearly outlined in state law – don't chance it.
The Law is Always Changing – Stay on Top of Your Rights!
Virginia is a great case study for this. In 2010, they enacted a law allowing residents with a concealed carry permit to legally enter establishments that serve alcohol provided they do not imbibe. What makes this an impeccable case study is when you look at the two states with extremely strict gun laws right next door – District of Columbia and Maryland – there is plenty of room to make big, costly mistakes.
In Maryland's case, it's also legal to enter establishments that serve alcohol. The District of Columbia, however, just recently passed a decision to allow residents to get a concealed carry permit in the first place!
While DC neighbors states where it is perfectly legal to carry your firearm into an establishment that serves alcohol, the District of Columbia strictly forbids this activity. This is why it's important to know your state CC rights prior to entering an alcohol serving venue. Alcohol isn't the only worry, how about businesses and places that make conceal carry illegal, take a look here: Concealed Carrying While Running Errands
Do you have any interesting stories about your experience with concealed carry and alcohol?
Tell us in the comments section below.
About The Author
James England is a former United States Marine Signals Intelligence Operator and defense contractor with over two tours spread over the Al Anbar province and two more operating across Helmand and Baghdis. He is presently a writer focused on Western foreign policy and maintains an avid interest in firearms. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, he presently resides in New Hampshire – the “Live Free or Die” state. He is finishing up his first novel, “American Hubris”, which is set to hit shelves in Fall of 2015.