Now You Can Have A Shot with Your Shot: Guns OK'ed in Tennessee Bars

Tennessee state welcome sign
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“I’m scared,” Randy Rayburn told BBC Radio today. Rayburn, who runs three upscale Nashville restaurants, has been fighting passage of a bill — that goes into effect tomorrow — that will allow Tennessee gun-owners to carry loaded weapons into bars and restaurants. Yeah, I’d be scared too.

According to today’s BBC report, 25 percent of Tennessee legislators own a gun, so the idea didn’t strike them as wacky. The state, says BBC, has 250,000 registered gun owners.

Nashville’s police chief pointed out that this allows civilians with “no training, no experience, no time for reflective thought” and, of course, the potential additive effects of alcohol on your judgment, fine motor skills and aim to combine a Glock and a Beck’s.

I’ve written a book about guns, fired a bunch of handguns for research and interviewed more than a 100 people nationwide about gun use and how it affects their lives. I understand the desire for self-protection, but especially in a major city like Nashville, in upscale restaurant or bar (or even a lousy, downscale one — hello, what are bouncers for? Or, maybe, cops?) is this necessary?

It’s one thing to want to protect yourself in an isolated area where there’s no cellphone or 311 coverage, where it can take many long minutes for police to respond to a life-threatening situation. But in a bar or restaurant, when and why would things get so out of control?

As anyone who has ever trained with a handgun knows — and I spent three full days at the Smith & Wesson Academy learning how to handle a 9 mm pistol — whatever skill you are certain you have, you have no idea what the next guy, or woman, is able to do, or wants to try.

This is a really bad idea.

12 thoughts on “Now You Can Have A Shot with Your Shot: Guns OK'ed in Tennessee Bars

  1. Hello, Caitlin. Interesting post. A few things:

    1. I’ve never viewed a carry permit as anything other than a true last-resort self-defense option, for the sake of protecting yourself and perhaps the person sitting next to you (outside of the home). But because people might not perceive such limitations, should there be no such thing as a carry permit, or do we issue permits (thanks to legislative vote) and see how well we do? You say it’s a “really bad idea” to be able to carry in a bar or restaurant; is the basic notion of a carry permit really bad in general?

    2. Because there are lies, damn lies, and then statistics (and because you’ve written that book), here’s my last question: Are these reports accurate/true that when carry permits are issued, crime stays the same or drops in the given state or area were people are known to be packing? That stat is forever cited in pro-gun discussions.


  2. Caitlin Kelly

    Thanks for your comment and thoughtful questions.

    I’m not per se opposed to carry permits; one of the issues I explored in my book was, for women, especially, the times and places a woman might feel the need to have a gun with her, while driving alone through isolated, dangerous or rural areas at night, for example. I also feel strongly that knowing how to shoot well, truly understanding the emotional and physical challenges involved in stress fire, is an essential skill. It’s extremely difficult to know when and where to shoot in self-defense as it’s a life-altering choice. The problem with carry permits is that they don’t ensure competence or safety in the use of that firearm.

    2. Good question and one I can’t answer definitively. In my research, I deliberately focused on interviewing 104 men, women and teens, and did not focus on the statistics that are used by both sides, both for and against gun ownership. Stats, as we both know, are often skewed to bolster one side of an argument or the other. The challenge of the argument that owning a gun reduces crime (John Lott’s contention) is that it’s very difficult to prove.

    1. Indeed, stress shooting is not something people get much or any training for when they are issued a carry permit. I would think that 10 feet is about the longest range anyone untrained could shoot accurately with a pistol in a high-speed stress situation.

      As for reductions in crime, that would be difficult to prove, as I suppose it would be akin to old notion of “proving a negative.” The only possible evidence I’ve seen of this is prison interviews with actual criminals who suggested that they might be less inclined to rob someone or burgle a home if they knew the person in question was armed.

      Knowing when to shoot in self-defense in public is a tough question, given who you might and might not hit, and how far a bullet will go. But I think a combination of proximity and threat will tell you.

      Do you think there are acceptable differences between men and women and their inherent self-defense issues? For instance, if I were driving through that same “isolated, dangerous or rural area at night,” would I be entitled to the same measure of self defense — up to shooting a would-be assailant who made me fear for my life — as the woman in that situation would?

  3. kerfuffler

    Although perhaps there would be a small reduction in crime if criminals thought lots of people were packing, I can’t help but wonder if the number of people hurt in the crossfire would more than make up for it.
    Furthermore, if lots of people are armed in bars, how many situations that previously ended with thrown punches , would escalate causing deaths and severe injuries.

    Basically, the ‘cure’ seems worse than the ‘illness’.

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Shooting well and accurately under stress is extraordinarily difficult; I did it in my handgun training and it is humbling in the extreme to see what happens as adrenaline degrades your fine motor skills. So when people talk about how certain they feel that they could take out a bad guy — and in a public place — I truly wonder how they could do so safely. Once you’ve been taught about ballistics, and how effectively most bullets penetrate what appear to be solid surfaces, that certainty appears less warranted. The issue is threat, proximity – and who else might be killed or injured. Bullets fired in self-defense can kill innocent bystanders.

    Your second point is a fair one, about the difference between men and women; I make it because 1) women gunowners, unlike men, can face real disapproval for their choice while 2) they are often perceived as more vulnerable — when a criminal selects a victim, who is more appealing? They assume a woman cannot and would not fight back, let alone shoot, (to kill.)3) Women are still, I believe, socialized to expect rescue, while some men are taught how to fight back or learn to recognize and avoid threatening situations. 4) Women are usually smaller and physically weaker than a male attacker.

    Shooting in self-defense, for anyone, is a hideous experience. If you kill, or even wound, your attacker, their family might sue you. Add to this the choice to take a life, no matter how necessary, and the possibility of facing prosecution for your decision.

    Avoiding situations in which your best/only option is shooting your own gun is the best choice, as I say clearly in my book. I interviewed several women who killed to protect their lives. It is deeply traumatizing.

  5. One of the things I have disagreed with about the “carry-permit-on-campus” issue is the spurious notion that people who carry could prevent a Virginia Tech-like massacre. No way. You’d shoot your friends and classmates. I would understand surely someone wanting a carry permit if he or she had no choice but to move about a campus at night (late class, walking a friend home, etc.) but nobody should ever think a carry permit turns them into a public servant.

    To be sure, having to shoot someone would be awful. But I’d rather be alive (and possibly getting sued by my attacker’s family or facing a DA) than maimed or dead myself.

    But a woman should not face any disapproval for choosing to own a firearm, regardless of how she maintains that ownership (in the home only; carry; or both). I would never blame a woman for wanting that level of protection. Nor would I blame a man.

  6. Caitlin Kelly

    It’s not clear to me, or likely to anyone, whether one could effectively take down someone determined to carry out a massacre on campus or at a workplace. The whole issue,in those circumstances, is the element of surprise and the shooter’s certainty that no one in those places will have a gun at the ready and the skill to kill them. For argument’s sake, what if, indeed, someone did kill a shooter under these circumstances and save lives? What if, in so doing, they also injured or even killed a bystander – but still saved many lives?

    Not sure where you live, but as someone who lives in the Northeast, I’ve seen how frequently a woman-who-shoots is treated as an object of derision or dismay. Women are often toughest on other women for making what they perceive as an extremely inappropriate choice, even if it’s a gun for sport or target shooting only. I’ve had people, certainly in NYC, react with visible disgust when I tell them I’ve even written about the subject. Bizarre.

  7. Caitlin Kelly

    I agree with you on this point, although it’s utterly weird in a country that so prides itself on pluralism and freedom of thought and expression, not to mention that retains the Second Amendment.

    When you draw attention to guns, other than to demonize them and their owners, you are — some feel very strongly — thereby de facto legitimizing them and their owners. The derisory cliche image is Bubba with a shotgun, while plenty of Ivy-educated folk own firearms they enjoy using; they just don’t draw (or even carefully avoid) media attention.

    One third of American homes contain a firearm. Bit late to get all offended by those who have one.

  8. In my ten years in NYC, mostly what I encountered about firearms was befuddlement: no one native to the city who I knew had ever used one (save for a few law-enforcement people), and most had an understandable fear of them being in the wrong hands.

    But you’re entirely right about the derisory cliche of the Bubba, because guns are a cultural football in American class warfare. People with a drawl tend to be more outspoken about gun rights, and the anti-gun types are too tempted to demonize those people.

    What’s it like in Canada? I’ve always gotten the feel that Canadians are pretty moderate about their firearms views, and they also have a tendency not to shoot each other much.

  9. Caitlin Kelly

    What amuses me, (not really), is that while few people I’ve met in my 20 years around NYC seem to know much about guns, most of the national media who opine about them are in…NYC.

    I didn’t spend much time on the issue when I lived in Canada, but, generally, Canadians tend to be more moderate in their views on many things. Not sure about current firearm death stats, but certainly lower than in the U.S.

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