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Virginia sees gun crimes drop a year after law allows weapons in bars

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In the fall, we told you about Tennessee and other states that enacted laws allowing patrons with permits to bring handguns into bars, provided they don’t drink. There’s follow-up from Virginia showing that gun crimes at bars and restaurants declined in the year after a concealed-carry law took effect. The Richmond Times-Dispatch analyzed statistics since the law changed and found that gun crimes at businesses that serve alcohol dropped 5.2%. The data also revealed that few gun crimes that were committed involved people who were lawfully carrying weapons.

Proponents weren’t surprised at the data. “The numbers basically just confirm what we’ve said would happen if the General Assembly changed the law,” Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, told the Times-Dispatch. On the other side, the numbers didn’t sway opponents, including lobbyist Tom Fisk of the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association. Fisk cited a case in which a bar patron broke the law by drinking while carrying a gun, then threatened a waitress and another concealed carrier, who accidentally shot himself while reaching into his pocket for cash.

The jury’s still out in other states. Columbus, Ohio, lawyer Jack D’Aurora’s Columbus Dispatch commentary last month argues that the state’s law is unlikely to reduce crime. D’Aurora cited a 2003 study showing that such laws correlate with higher crime, and he disagreed with the argument that armed law-abiding citizens serve as a deterrent to would-be criminals. He also wondered whether most citizens are equipped and trained to use their weapons in self-defense.

Do you think the numbers show it’s safe to allow guns in bars, or is the jury still out for you? Tell us in the comments.