Another year, another bunch of badly written stories and even worse headlines about Virginia legislators monkeying with the concealed weapons law. There’s some valid issues here to discuss but you’d never know it from the reporting that happens every time this is revisited.
Case in point: Washington Post’s Virginia Politics blog headlines a story “Va. Senate votes to allow guns in restaurants” and opens with “The Democratically-controlled Virginia Senate has voted to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns in restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as the person carrying the weapon does not drink.”
Problem is, guns are already allowed in restaurants and concealed weapons permit holders can already carry them in… openly.
We’ll just ignore the fact that the above WaPo story thinks that the VA Senate being democratically controlled is so pertinent that it needs to be in the opening paragraph.
The major problem with the article is the same one made by all the news outlets every year when the Virginia legislature tries to alter the law: Virginia has open-carry and citizens are free to strap their sidearm to their belt and walk wherever they like with it… including into Red Lobster or any other alcohol-serving establishment. Provided the business doesn’t prohibit it.
WaPo ought to know this; they have written about it. If they feel like they can’t just report facts without supporting evidence (other than their own past stories) I imagine know that a nanosecond of googling will turn up supporting information as well as the names of people willing to discuss the matter.
Despite this allowance for open carry, however, the law specifically regarding concealed weapons carves out an exclusion for some permit holders. Specifically, the average joe can’t walk in the door of anywhere that serves alcohol – whether it be a club, Outback, or even your local kabob counter that has beer – unless they switch that weapon to outside their clothing.
It’s not a full ban – someone who owns that shop doesn’t even need a concealed weapons permit to hide their pistol on their own property or in their own business – it’s stated right up at the top of the code governing concealed weapons prohibitions and permitting. Law enforcement officers can also be strapped under their clothing. As can “any owner or event sponsor or his employees.”
So, the law as it stands allows for every single employee of that Red Lobster to be packin’ heat, including the bartender, as well as any on duty, off duty, and retired law enforcement officer. Go to Outback on Police Officer Appreciation Night and the only person in there who isn’t armed might be the person with the concealed weapons permit.
You might get the impression that I’m a big supporter of this law change from the above text, but the reality is that I don’t have a strong opinion on the issue. I think there’s a case to be made for keeping firearms out of places that serve alcohol (though I have a hard time getting worked up over restaurants that just happen to serve booze) but there’s not currently any such ban. The only thing the current law accomplishes is keeping some concealed weapons out of a restaurant without the establishment needing to put up a sign prohibiting weapons… which they’re perfectly free to do, before and after this law change.
The same concealed weapons permit that bans carrying into these establishments includes a clause making it a misdemeanor for a permit holder to be carrying while intoxicated, as well as providing for an automatic revocation of the permit and banning them from re-applying for five years. So there’s already a ban against permit holders imbibing when they’re carrying, whether they do that drinking at home or at Red Lobster.
So keep that in mind as you read what’s sure to be an endless series of stories full of half-truths and scaremongering from folks both for and against this change in the code. They’ll no doubt continue till the law passes, which it’s almost certain to do. This passed both houses last year and only failed to become law when Governor Kaine vetoed it. McDonnell has indicated his support, so if it makes it to his desk it’ll become law.