Crime rate drops in VA bars and restaurants

Okay, even gun rights advocates have to admit that, on its face, the idea of legalizing concealed carry in places that serve alcohol sounded bad, if only at first blush.  When the state of Virginia removed the restriction on concealed carry in bars and alcohol-serving restaurants last year, critics blasted the action and predicted a wave of crime, violence, and death from drunken patrons … much like critics of carry permits predict for licensed carry anywhere, actually.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported yesterday that the critics managed to keep their perfect prognosticating record intact (via Gabriel Malor):

Virginia’s bars and restaurants did not turn into shooting galleries as some had feared during the first year of a new state law that allows patrons with permits to carry concealed guns into alcohol-serving businesses, a Richmond Times-Dispatch analysis found.

The number of major crimes involving firearms at bars and restaurants statewide declined 5.2 percent from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, compared with the fiscal year before the law went into effect, according to crime data compiled by Virginia State Police at the newspaper’s request.

And overall, the crimes that occurred during the law’s first year were relatively minor, and few of the incidents appeared to involve gun owners with concealed-carry permits, the analysis found.

Since critics of the carry law would have jumped to an assumption of causation had the crime rate increased, we should make that assumption here as well — and it may be valid.  Unless there is some other societal or legal pressure forcing a decline in violence in bars and restaurants, the only change appears to be that lawfully armed citizens can now patronize these businesses.  That might have those looking to cause trouble avoiding Virginia’s bars and restaurants, and those who might get belligerent in them a second thought or two before acting on those impulses.

But this also points out another dynamic, one that has been true in every state that has liberalized carry license issuance in one way or another.  The people most likely to avail themselves of those permits and licenses are, generally speaking, the most responsible citizens in these communities.  Not only do they have to pay for certification and training, but they have to demonstrate a clean record and go through the hassle of renewal every few years (five years in MN).  They value those permits and would be far less inclined to recklessly endanger their status than people who carry illegally — and who were carrying before the must-issue laws passed.

Don’t think for a moment that actual results will change the critics’ hysterics, however:

State Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, who was a strong opponent of the law, said it’s not clear what conclusions can be drawn from just a year’s worth of data.

“Most folks obey the law, and that’s a good thing,” said McEachin, who remains staunchly opposed. “But I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that just like drinking and driving doesn’t mix, guns and drinking don’t mix.”

They still predict that the law will lead to a wave of drunken crime.  Their evidence? One permit holder got drunk while carrying and accosted a waitress without actually pulling the gun out, and another person pulled a gun during a physical fight in a restaurant — that didn’t serve alcohol and was not covered under the old law anyway.  In the former incident, the man was charged with drunk driving; should there be a law against driving to bars and alcohol-serving restaurants next?