Alcohol and Concealed Carry
This is a transcript from Episode 241 of the Polite Society Podcast. One of the best parts of this podcast is the great people who answer our questions. Send us your questions and we’ll try to get you some answers.
Rob- Do guns and alcohol mix? How much is too much if we drink and carry? I asked a number of instructors and got a surprisingly wide range of answers.
Even one beer or a small glass of wine is enough to impair our performance and our judgment. Keep that in perspective because our performance varies from day to day and it varies throughout the day. On the other side of the equation, remember that shooting at the range is a complex task that takes practice.. and shooting in self-defense is harder still.
John- Shooting is a perishable and complex skill, and it is an easy skill to lose when you’re impaired.
As firearms owners, we train to increase our performance and decrease our reaction time. We take classes to recognize the risks we’re likely to face. We practice situational awareness. We train with dry-fire at home and with live fire at the range. Some of us use competition for stress inoculation. Every aspect of self-defense gets slower when we drink alcohol.
Rob- I’d forgotten how many pieces have to fit together when we use a firearm for self-defense.
One of the instructors related the story of being well trained and in good physical shape. Out of curiosity, he conducted an experiment playing first-person shooter video games while drinking. There was a measurable and significant decrease in his performance after the first beer. Things went downhill from there with each drink that followed.
John- You could argue that he is more highly trained than we are, so his performance dulled more quickly than ours would from taking that first drink. You could also argue that he is better than we are, so we need to keep any advantage we might have.
Rob- Maybe both are true.
John- Drinking isn’t the only thing that affects our performance. I’m sure you’ve noticed your driving skills suffer after the fatigue of a long day and the stress of a few hours in stop and go traffic. Hunger and thirst take their toll as well. Even if we get the right amount of sleep, we are slow to react first thing in the day and last thing at night. We are seldom at our best. On average we are average. Add all those other factors onto our slower reaction time when we drink alcohol.
Paul- It takes 15 minutes to wake up so you can drive a vehicle. We have less time when we’re startled awake by an intruder.
Rob- Don’t stop there. Nyquil, pain medications and recreational drugs degrade our performance as well. These drugs also put us at risk for legal action if we are carrying under their influence.
Some states set a limit for blood alcohol content when we concealed carry. Michigan sets the level for concealed carry at one quarter the level for being intoxicated while driving. Other states simply say no alcohol is acceptable or use the ambiguous phrase “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol. In that case the smell of alcohol is enough to get your CCW license taken away. It varies from state to state. but remember that some states don’t allow restaurant carry at all.
Gary- Minnesota and South Dakota have very different laws about entering places that serve alcohol.
John- They aren’t as advanced as North Carolina?
Rob- Few places are.
John- A libertarian perspective says you are absolutely responsible for your actions, and some people are impaired at different rates. It is the impairment that counts, not the blood chemistry. I appreciate that point of view. I also wonder if addicts who need their drug to function normally should be carrying. The libertarian philosophy is interesting, but lawyers don’t see things that way.
Rob- John, you’re a philosopher.
John- I am!
Rob- Firearms instructors teach us to win the first fight with the criminal. They also teach us to win the second fight in our legal system. Lawyers will use any excuse to benefit their clients and place blame somewhere else. Even if you do everything else perfectly, the opposing lawyers will use the fact that you were drinking before their client broke into your home. They will question your innocence even if the thug attacked you. The lawyers will question your judgment and try to place the blame on you. Your actions go from reasonable and prudent and now become wanton and reckless. It isn’t fair that the criminal can drink but you can’t. You will be scrutinized and judged based on other people’s perceptions of your potential impairment, not your actual impairment. You already knew that life wasn’t fair.
John- Your lawyer will tell you that life isn’t fair.. and then charge you $300 for the advice.
John- Suppose you had a beer with dinner, and now at bedtime you realize you should go to the store to get something for breakfast. Should you carry or not? The answers are not black and white.
Rob- I see where you’re going. Suppose you have a glass of wine at home. Nothing happens to your guns. There isn’t a sudden epidemic of gun violence in your home. Aren’t you the same person and would act the same way as if you’d had that drink in a restaurant or a bar?
John- Laws don’t always make sense, but we live with them anyway.
It is unlikely that we will ever be robbed or attacked. We have to recognize that drugs and drinking raises the risk of losing the second fight in court as well as the first one with the criminal. That’s something for us to consider. One instructor who lives in a free state said he’d never been asked about drinking and carrying, and he has instructed for many years. License holders are honest and moderate, so most of us are used to self-regulating our behavior.
Rob- I’m not trying to make a big deal out of drinking, but it does add to our risks and we have to be realistic about it. You will drink.. some amount, some time and at some place. If I go to my daughter’s wedding then I will offer a toast to the bride and groom. If I drink then the designated driver is now the designated defender because I really don’t have my CCW for the next 12 hours.
John- Concealed carry is a lifestyle change. There are places I can’t go if I carry. There are things we can’t do if we’re ready to defend ourselves. Consuming alcohol is one of the things we give up. We have to be clear about that choice, and the lifestyle change goes well beyond simply carrying a gun. Rob, it takes some adjustment.
Rob- I’d like to thank these instructors for their comments.
Rob- (takes a deep breath)
John- You forgot George Hill
And Stephen Wenger
Rob- I didn’t forget them.
John- Too late now.