- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2010

Someone who is drunk shouldn’t be handling a gun, but that doesn’t justify a ban on concealed carrying in all places that serve alcohol. On Tuesday, the Virginia House of Delegates joined the state Senate and voted 72-to-27 to overturn this ban. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s signature is all that stands in the way of getting rid of this dangerous restriction.

Over the past two decades, a sweeping wave of freedom has allowed more citizens to carry concealed handguns. States have realized that there is little reason to restrict the carrying of concealed handguns by those who have received permits. Forty states currently allow concealed handguns to be carried in places that serve alcohol. None of the states that have allowed this freedom has cause to reverse the decision.

The facts are clear. Despite misleading claims to the contrary by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Violence Policy Center, permit holders are law-abiding individuals who are extremely careful with their guns. This general rule applies in states that allow concealed handguns in bars. Permit holders simply haven’t been getting liquored up and harming others through irresponsible conduct. Virginia hasn’t had any problem with open carry in restaurants, so it’s hard to understand why anyone thinks there could be a problem with concealed handguns.

Take Florida and Texas, two states that allow concealed handguns in bars. Between Oct. 1, 1987, and Jan. 31, 2010, Florida issued permits to more than 1.7 million people. Only 167 have had their permits revoked for any firearms-related violations. That is a minuscule 0.0098 percent revocation rate. The vast majority of those revocations were not for violence, but merely for accidentally carrying a gun into a gun-free zone. During the past 16 months, there was only one incident involving a firearms-related violation.

The numbers are similar in Texas. Over the five years from 2002 to 2006, the average rate at which permit holders were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony was 0.04 percent. In 2006, the most frequent reason for revocation involved permit holders carrying a concealed handgun without keeping their licenses on them. The forthcoming third edition of “More Guns, Less Crime” shows that in other right-to-carry states, permit holders are just as law-abiding. That book finds no evidence that revocation rates are any higher in states that allow permitted handguns in taverns.

What gun prohibitions do is create dangerous gun-free zones - places where criminals intent on harming others feel confident they can commit crimes with impunity. A criminal who takes his gun into a gun-free zone knows that the good law-abiding citizens, his victims, are sitting ducks. A government that maintains laws like that is not looking after the interests of its citizens.

It’s past time for the commonwealth to take aim at counterproductive laws that endanger Virginians. With a flick of his pen, Mr. McDonnell can correct this problem and modernize Virginia’s right-to-carry law.

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