INTERVIEW: Point-counterpoint on guns in restaurants

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It has now been just about two weeks since a new Virginia law went into effect allowing concealed weapons in bars and restaurants. Now, both sides of the issue are already weighing in on its impact.

Today we get the opinions of people directly connected to the new law. Phillip Van Cleave is the President of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a group that fought to get the law passed.

Jack Lauterback is a local bartender and the author of the bar blog "Jack Goes Forth." He also contributes to Style Weekly.

Ryan: Jack, let's start with you. As a bartender, you feel this law makes you less safe. Why?

Jack: Well, this is going to come as a surprise to many of the viewing audience, but guns and alcohol do not mix. This is ground-breaking, no, but we simply feel that working in the restaurant industry and, you know, letting these people in with guns, even if they're not allowed to drink, is simply not a good idea. It's not going to result in any good thing and we're looking out for our customer' safety, my safety, my coworkers safety and I can't see why anyone would need a gun in a bar. My detractors will tell you they would like to take their guns to lunch at red lobster…

Ryan: And let's let the detractors weigh in it.

Ryan: Phillip, you disagree. As Jack mentioned, many people think mixing guns and bars is a bad idea. But you disagree. Why do you think that this is someone's constitutional right?

Phillip: Well, first of all, the law doesn't allow you to drink while you're carrying concealed, so if you call that mixing guns and alcohol, I'd love to hear the theory behind that. You can't drink. And it is indeed one of our rights to be able to protect yourself, and there are crimes that happen in and around restaurants and bars all the time. A personal should be allowed to protect themselves everywhere they go.

Ryan: So your feeling is it doesn't matter where you go, the second amendment protects your right to have a gun no matter where that maybe, even in a place where people could be intoxicated.

Phillip: Well, if one of those intoxicated people decides to start attacking somebody, I would like to be able to protect myself. I won't be drinking.

Ryan: Do you buy that, that someone who has a gun and isn't drinking is able to protect you.

Jack: No, no. When I'm serving 100 people on a Friday night, how do I know who has a concealed weapon and isn't drinking? And don't tell me permit holders are angels because they simply are not. So a criminal comes in and pulls out a gun and Mr. Van Cleave is going to pull his, so now I have a Mexican standoff in front of 100 people. I'm sure they're the best marksman around but someone else is going to die and it could be an innocent person.

Ryan: How did you know that someone had a concealed weapon in your bar before?

Jack: I did not and this makes it much more difficult, but let's say I find out someone is carrying and they're carrying a Coca-Cola around the bar? You know, do I go up and ask them if there's rum in that coke? Do I confront them even though they have a weapon? You know, the only thing restaurants can really do right now is put a sign up that says no weapons allowed, but you shouldn't even have to put the sign up. We're endangering lives, customers' lives. People get drunk at bars, they make bad decisions and throwing a gun in the middle of it makes things that much worse.

Ryan: Phillip, respond to that point about enforcement. How do bar owners and police officers enforce it if they don't know someone is drinking.

Phillip: Do they know who has car keys concealed who might get off and kill a family in a drunken accident? They're not required by the law to enforce the law. Only the police would. If there were an issue and the police came along and found out one chance in a zillion that a permit holder had done something, then he will be in violation of the law. This is not happening here. We used to be able to carry concealed in restaurants before '95, there was never an issue. This is much to-do about nothing, quite frankly.

Ryan: What about Jack's point that mixing one person who may not be a law-abiding citizens with one who may be and giving they will both guns doesn't make the situation better?

Phillip: So he wants the one person that could protect themselves to go ahead and be murdered by some crazy lunatic, I don't think so. You should be able to protect yourself. If he's not keeping track of who's drunk in his bar and continues to give them alcohol, that's more of a problem than someone carrying a gun.

Jack: Mr. Van Cleave, I understand you're probably quite a few years older than me and don't go to late night bars as much and why you want to carry guns during the day, but you're not the one serving 500 people on a Friday night. It's a very dangerous situation.

Philip: Then you should get a permit to carry.

Ryan: We have to leave it there. Very good discussion by both of you.

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