Debate Forum Left, 7/5/11

Is this alcohol or lead poisoning?

By Benjamin Tompkins

Benjamin Tomkins

If you drive about 30 minutes back into the high country on highway 285 in Colorado, just before you pitch off the map into the timeless oblivion of the deep back country, you will come across a sleepy little town on the edge of civilization. It’s an old mining town with wooden storefronts sporting hand-lettered signs reading “General Store” and “Barber,” and I find there is a frankness to these names which reflects the rustic, survivalist nature of life on the frontier. Prominent among these establishments is a store that typifies the swashbuckling romance of the Wild West. The name of this store … is Liquor and Ammo. No shit.

Ask yourself why you are chuckling. Is it because, possibly, you acknowledge there is a level of absurdity inherent in the combination of those two things which is so patently obvious that one can do little else but stare catatonically at the overwhelming idiocy of that sign and listlessly stammer like a shell-shocked Frenchman? Now stop and realize your governor is about to sign a bill that will allow citizens with concealed carry permits to bring those weapons into Ohio’s bars.

Woah, woah, woah, woah, go easy on the Second Amendment rhetoric Pavlov. Listen, I’ve heard the argument you’re mindlessly dribbling down the front of your shirt like a lobotomized Teddy Ruxpin. I’m not trying to take away your rights or intimate that your ridiculous obsession with protection is nothing more than an elaborate compensatory rationalization. I mean, it is, but I’m not saying anything about guns and alcohol that isn’t in the bill already. Namely, despite the fact that you can bring a concealed weapon into a restaurant or bar, it’s still a felony to drink and carry. The state fully agrees that alcohol and firearms are an inherently dangerous combination. Now you can be that person who condones this obviously inflammatory set of circumstances Ohio is legitimizing by passively dismissing the ramifications of allowing people to involve themselves demonstrably dangerous behavior in the name of civil rights, but realize that if you do I will be stopping by your house later. I’m going to give your 14-year-old daughter a box of condoms and drop her off in the Oregon District at 2 a.m. because hey, it’s illegal for her to be having sex anyway and I don’t think we should regulate circumstances before someone commits a crime.

Wait, what?

And I hope I’ve made my meaning plain that there is a distinct difference between the acceptable risks of simply owning a gun and situations involving liquor and ammo. I’m not so anti-gun that I can’t acknowledge the fact that I have many, many friends who own firearms and handle them in a safe, respectful manner. Indeed, they probably have a greater respect for guns than I do because they are more familiar and experienced with them. But I have to admit the one consistent pitfall I see with everyone I talk to who has a concealed carry permit for self defense is that they think a gun will allow them to control an inherently out-of-control situation.

I watched an experiment recently where experienced gun owners were placed in a mock situation where they would need to defend themselves. It was a classroom thing where a crazy guy busts in and starts shooting. Half of these people couldn’t even get the gun out of the holster, and the ones who did either did so way too late to save themselves, absolutely destroyed the area directly surrounding their assailant while leaving the perpetrator miraculously unharmed, or shot a minimum of two innocent bystanders who were tearing ass towards the door. Oh, and they all got shot like seven times in the process. Yeah, that too.

When they were interviewing the subjects afterwards, they all said they felt completely useless despite having a gun. They said they tunnel-visioned on the gunman and had no ability to assess or deal with the situation beyond blindly shooting in the direction of the threat. The police officers who ran the demonstration all said that’s why it’s so important to train constantly so your muscle memory takes over and you don’t fall into the trap of your instincts. Furthermore, if you don’t train for even a single month, your ability all but vanishes and you turn into a mindless sheep when the doo-doo hits the barstool.

Now imagine they made you pound a few beers first. I’m sorry, but if a perfectly sober, trained gun owner can’t handle a classroom shootout in any meaningful or repeatable way, allowing people to carry firearms into a drinking establishment is completely insane. Do yourselves a favor and get rid of this bill.

Benjamin Tompkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist, and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, CO. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tompkins at

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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