In my last entry here (found below this one for those who don’t come here regularly) I made a point: if we’re going to have mad dog killers shoot up bars because they’re sure they won’t draw return fire there, it would be an awfully good idea if one or more of the good guys and gals in the bar were carrying and not drinking alcohol, and could shoot back. “Designated defenders,” as it were.

Greg Ellifritz is a friend whose great expertise as a self-defense instructor I can endorse.  He has this to add to the topic on his own excellent blog, which I read regularly and think you would get a lot out of, too:

Obviously, no one is endorsing drunks with guns.  But even if a change of law was necessary to allow sober carry in bars in some states, it makes sense to have someone in place at the scene equipped to stop the next person who wants to be on an every-five-minute tape-loop on CNN before he racks up a toll of tragedy like the last one in Thousand Oaks, or the worse one not so long ago in Orlando. A badge is not necessary.  A gun in a rescuing hand is necessary.


  1. Morning from a wet Seattle ! I never leave home without my Subcompack Springfield V10 45 ACP have doneit now over20+ years I have a WA. CCP if I don’t have it I feel undress !

    • Same here, since returning to the Seattle area 40+ years ago I have done the same although, my firearm of choie is now an M&P93Shield.

  2. Great topic and great information- one I often think about. I am not an absolutist when it comes to drinking while carrying. In New York State, it is not illegal to be in a bar while carrying. Nor is it illegal to drink while carrying. We also have medicinal marijuana, but I’m not sure how this relates to one’s legal status when carrying after consuming cannabis. That might be a topic for another day.

    Obviously, each of us must exercise sound judgment any time we carry. But, I for one will not go unarmed just because I will consume some alcohol when out at a restaurant or bar with my wife in NY (when we are in Florida it’s a different story). Nor will I leave my gun at home when going to wine, beer, or cider tastings. To me responsible drinking while carrying is similar to drinking when out then driving home. Don’t get trashed: keep it under the BAC limit and make sure you are self-aware of- and responsible about- your perceptual-motor skills regardless of BAC.

    One thing that Mr. Ellifritz discussed was the concept of the doctrine of competing harms. If one is drinking while carrying and you must fire in defense of innocent life (justifiable self-defense)- are you covered by the doctrine for ANY charge one might potentially face? My guess is no- but the factors one must consider are likely numerous.

    And, what about in restricted places (no guns policy; but not illegal to carry per se) when one intentionally “beats” a metal detector or other form of security screening? Would one be covered by the doctrine of competing harms- if the SHTF- at a minimum for any consequences related to “armed trespass?”

    As a member of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, would the network get involved in such cases?

    I don’t want to be the test case- but I’ll be damned if I unnecessarily left my gun at home- to “play it safe,” and end up being attacked. I look forward to learning from the input of other contributors to this forum who are more experienced and knowledgeable than me.

    • Unfortunately, the use of any (medical as well) marijuana) Federally negates the purchase and possession (and obviously use) of firearms. Regardless of State law, Federal law still does not recognize legal MJ use. This might cause some problems if a medical MJ user was involved in a defensive gun use situation. Maybe yes, maybe no, but be aware of this.

      • Yes- great point that had not occurred to me as I wrote the above blurb. The medicinal MJ issue does not apply to me- but might apply to my wife who has MS. If the information that I have seen on-line is accurate, it seems that folks will need to choose: medicine or your gun rights.

        This might also open up a more general discussion on other kinds of medicines which might affect mood, cognition, and/or behavior; and whether one can be treated by certain meds and also maintain your gun rights. I foresee a slippery slope.

  3. This is great stuff.. Greg is an amazing guy, he thinks outside the box after first considering every detail of or related to that box.

    My state is one where private businesses can “ban” guns from their property, but state law also mandates certain signage specified as to patten, size, location relative to entry doors. If those signs are not present (they almost never are…. heh heh heh) and thus the tiny handgun cartoon/red circle/slash can be ignored. Worst possible scenario is if I am “made” the proprietor/agent can ASK me to remove the weapon from their property at which point I must, or be possibly subject to criminal trespass charges. SO… “Carry on,Mr. Bowditch” is my practice. I also know that most government buildings, IF they choose to ban weapons, MUST provide locked safe storage, AND individual security checks including wanding, metal detectorss, etc. I am far more comfortable in those places surrendering my weapon as I know that, however carefully it might be done, there IS a process to at least make a TSA level show of searching for and denying entry to all other’s weapons as well as mine. Plus, I get to store mine in a safe location, away from car prowls, breakins, etc.

  4. Mas,

    I greatly enjoyed Greg Ellifritz’s article that you made available here. Furthermore I agree with your suggestion about the Designated Defender. It makes sense doing that to have at least one person totally free of alcohol should a horrific incident like that happen again in who knows where land.

  5. Mas, thanks for posting this link. I happened across it before and it reminded me of your earlier post.

    What I think is really necessary to move this issue (off-duty cops carrying in bars) forward is for some reputable experts like you to weigh-in on the the impairment issue.

    If you and others concluded that a cop with one or two beers is a safe driver but an un-safe shooter than I think that would kill the issue.

    Conversely, if a consensus emerged that a cop with a couple of beers is as safe a shooter as he would be a driver then I think this issue should be advanced.

    If we were honest about it we would have to admit that there are a hell of a lot of off-duty cops on the road after a couple of beers. If we do – and should – tolerate driving after a couple of beers then why refrain from availing ourselves of armed police – off-duty drinking in a bar?

    I imagine that you would rather be arguing for your “Designated Defender” idea. And I understand that. Yet, I think my question overlaps your Designated Defender idea.

    The Anti’s will insist that a well-intended “Designated Defender” will enter a bar bearing arms – but decide to have just 1 beer; oh, alright, I’ll have another. Well, he’s no longer PERFECTLY sober. So, the “Designated Defender” idea must be rejected because there is NO GUARANTEE that the guy who undertook the responsibility to refrain – might drink anyway.

    Anticipating that argument, you may decide not to consider my question; or, if you do consider it, you might still keep your opinion to yourself. That would be understandable; I’m not certain what the right tactics might be.

    • Mark, there are tiers to this we have to consider. I would like to see it OK to be armed in a bar if you’re not consuming alcohol, whether you are a private citizen legal to carry elsewhere, OR an off-duty or retired cop. That is already the rule in several jurisdictions. The next thing we have to address, as you suggested, is whether the standard is “zero alcohol on board” or “not under the influence.” The zero alcohol specification will be a lot easier to sell to the general public and the legislators.

    • MarkPA: Part of the problem with allowing “one or two beers” is first, how big are those beers? Next is the stature of the drinker. A 6.5″ 280 lb. guy will absorb two 12 oz. beers and have a blood alcohol level lower than a 5’5″ 100 lb. girl. Also, how the individual reacts/ acts to alcohol is a factor. If you have had a friend or family member killed by a drunk driver who “only had 2 beers” (as I have) you would view this differently and not be advocating for driving or designated defenders who have had ANY alcohol.

      • While there are charts available that associate body weight with drinks consumed per hour and BAC, the effect on mood is highly individualized. The term “drink” is operationally defined in the medical literature, and behavioral descriptions of effect on behavior exist for various BAC levels (e.g., .02, .04, etc.).

        Three problems: (a) when you are out, to what extent can you control the size of the drink served to you (consistent with Captain Bob’s comment above); (b) how can you reliably assess your BAC at any point in time (that’s without a breathalyzer- and people tend to underestimate how impaired they actually are); and (c) most research on BAC and behavior was done in the context of driving- to what extent do the psychomotor skills required for driving equate with those needed for safe firearms handling, especially in a defensive shooting situation?

        I have not checked but would like to see if any data exist that indicate rate of firearms mishandling when a person has consumed various amounts of alcohol, especially in states that allow drinking while carrying. My guess is that no reliable data exist: we are not likely to ever know the baseline rate of drinking while carrying.

        I guess there is something to be said for parsimony when it comes to the issue of drinking while carrying.

  6. Lots of gun-free zones and establishments, a cowed citizenry, and law enforcement agencies that don’t allow off-duty police officers to carry firearms when consuming alcohol in dram shops–mix it all together and you create a mass killer’s paradise.

    • Kevin,

      I read the article you linked to. Most security guards wear uniforms. The author of the article does not mention what the guard was wearing.

      This is a terrible tragedy, but why can’t the journalist write an article which answers basic questions? Is he just trying to make cops and gun owners look bad? A black man with a gun in a security uniform does not look like a criminal. If he was undercover, then how could he enforce the establishment’s rules? He would just look like another patron.

      • Other articles say that the guard was wearing a cap that said “SECURITY”. He may have also been wearing a shirt that indicated he was security, but that’s not yet clear.
        Most bars and clubs do not have security guards that dress like mall cops.
        Witnesses have said the officer involved fired before he even finished yelling a command.
        Other officers reportedly yelled “He’s one of us!” just before he fired.
        As it stands, until we get a full, true story that indicates otherwise, it looks like another incident where a panicked officer fired before properly assessing the situation.

  7. I stay out of bars… I don’t mess around with other people’s wives either. Nor do I stay out past midnight. Thus I’ve never had any real problems with people.

    But I STILL pack! Just cause of nutjobs like the one at Thousand Oaks.

  8. I have simply stopped drinking alcohol outside of my house. Not willing to play Russian roulette with some overzealous prosecutor re having any alcohol in my system. It is too expensive as well.

  9. Mas, I thought that with your New Hampshire experience, you’d point out that we have no restrictions on carry, except that you can’t carry in a courthouse.

    We also have the nation’s lowest rate of gun crime.

  10. This is a good thread. Thanks for the link to Greg’s article.
    Regarding BAC limits for legally carrying a firearm, I have some interesting life experience around this…

    I formerly worked in law enforcement. During that time I knew of at least one deputy prosecutor and a few LEO’s who got busted for DUI while going through their own divorce. Several years ago I went through my own divorce. I enjoy good adult beverage. So I purchased the same portable breathalyzers used by my department and our state highway patrol. I bought 250 mouthpieces and started carrying that instrument in my car.

    I have sent the instrument in for re-calibration periodically and kept it maintained. I have now conducted many “Experiments” with myself and my friends over the past 5 plus years. Here is a summary of what I have found.

    Most people are not reliably able to gauge how impaired they are. Even after having done these same experiments with them over the years. This instrument has kept impaired friends from driving. And it has kept me from driving impaired.

    For myself I tend to think that I am more impaired than I actually am, up to about .04 BAC. At somewhere around .05 BAC and up to maybe .1 BAC, I think that I am less impaired than I actually am. And there have been times that I have been over .1 and thought that I might still be OK to drive.! Yikes!

    One of the FAR’s that pilots must follow is that their BAC must be below .04. That is what I have adopted for myself for driving. And I believe that it may be appropriate as the upper limit for carrying a firearm as a police officer or civilian. Less than .04 is good for pilots and commercial drivers. Should I really have to abstain from having one really good glass of wine or beer because I choose to be armed?

  11. Let’s imagine 3 of the cops at The Borderline were carrying, and returned fire at the killer. Let’s say they stopped the attack, but a bullet or two hit an innocent bystander. Maybe a bullet even passed through the killer and then struck the innocent person. The fact is the attack was stopped sooner than usual, resulting in fewer casualties. However, the anti-American news media will focus on the collateral damage, and magnify its importance. This is where that lesser of two evils, competing harms doctrine will also come into play.

    It’s good that we are examining all these technicalities, but it’s too bad that we have to be afraid of the law when we are good Samaritans.

    Good versus Evil should be simple. Fight crime. Shoot back. Death to the Wicked!

  12. If You’ve been Upset Before, After You take a Look at How the Democratic Party Really Feels about the Constitution, & the 2nd Amendment, as Well as Every American Citizen’s God Given, & Once Constitutionally Protected Right to “Keep, and Bear Arms”, You’ll Be Looking to “Throw EVERY Democratic Office Holder, not only “Out of Office”, BUT DIRECTLY INTO PRISON!!



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  14. Thanks for addressing this subject. I wanted to let you know that I wrote a piece based on your article and linked to your blog page. I’m a Board member for San Diego County Gun Owners (SDCGO) and I write weekly articles for our Blog page. This subject is very relevant to those of us who carry in San Diego. SDCGO was able to persuade the Sheriff to issue concealed carry permits to qualified citizens. This is the first time in over 30 years an average citizen is able to get a concealed carry permit in San Diego County. While being in a bar or consuming alcohol while armed is not illegal in California, both violate the Sheriff’s guidelines in San Diego and could result in the loss of a CCW permit. We’re not yet where we need to be but we’re definitely moving in the right direction. Thanks for starting the conversation.

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