Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
If you haven't heard the news already, four states (Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia and Virginia) now allow permit-toting patrons to bring their loaded guns into bars.
At first, this gave me the image the old, Western saloon in which cowboys had their guns slung in leather holsters, strutted around in finely stitched boots donned with spurs and settled disputes with shootouts on the dusty, dirt roads outside. But then I realized that that image is just a replay of what those old Western movies showed me. That may be somewhat similar to what life was like back then, but either way, times have changed.
Now, one of the main reasons people choose to exercise their right to bear arms is to protect themselves and their family from the modern world's dangers. By "danger," I mean murderers, rapists, muggers, etc. And in the past decade or so, a rash of school shootings has gotten the nation's attention. It has made people feel unsafe in places previously thought to be safe. Some officials are pushing to allow guns on school campuses, arguing that giving people the ability to defend themselves would lower death rates in these occurrences. It seems logical enough. Fight fire with fire.
But what does this fire usually end up doing? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, firearms accounted for approximately 17 percent of all the injury deaths in the United States in 2007. Only motor-vehicle traffic injuries and poisonings accounted for more injury-related deaths, at 23 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
The interesting thing about firearm deaths is that, unlike deaths caused by motor-vehicle incidents and poisonings, they are predominantly intentional. Suicides and homicides made up about 96 percent of all firearm-related deaths that year -- with suicides making up a higher percentage of the deaths than homicides. It seems logical enough. To shoot a gun, you must intentionally pull the trigger.
So yes, having a gun on your person may protect you from another person with a gun. But seeing as how most firearm-related deaths are intentionally self-inflicted, how do we protect ourselves from the biggest "danger" -- ourselves?
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.