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"You can make a difference"An advocate for banning guns in restaurants urges citizen action
By Ray Friedman
After the horrific Connecticut shootings, we in Tennessee need to step back to consider where the NRA — and the Republican Party that it owns — is pushing us. In 2010, despite widespread opposition by most Tennesseans, they forced upon us a law that allows guns in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Now they are trying to force through a law that even solid Republican business leaders oppose — to require that employers allow guns in parking lots. Since the state now seems to be run by the NRA, not the people, what can you do?
If you do not think that guns and alcohol should be allowed to mix, simply refuse to spend your money at places that allow guns — which, according to our latest research, includes O'Charley's, Dalts, Blackstone Brewery, F. Scott's and Applebee's. And let them know why.
Under the 2010 law, each restaurant or bar has a choice. They can post a no-gun sign at the entrance, or not. If they do not post a no-gun sign, then by law people with gun-carry permits can bring their guns. If they post a no-gun sign at the entrance, then it is illegal for people to bring their guns. It is the restaurant's choice what policy to have, but also your choice whether to spend your money there.
We have seen instances where restaurants claim to prohibit guns but don't conform to the new law, which requires that one of the following two notices be displayed in all entrances to the establishment:
1. A sign that contains language "substantially similar" to the following: "As authorized by T.C.A. § 39-17-1359, possession of a weapon on posted property or in a posted building is prohibited and is a criminal offense."
2. A sign featuring the international circle and slash symbolizing the prohibition of the item [a gun] within the circle.
Other restaurants truly are unaware — they believe that they are still "no-gun." When our volunteers call restaurants, about half of restaurant managers and owners do not know that the law has changed, and are appalled that guns are now allowed. Many will post no-gun signs right away. When you go to your favorite restaurant, tell them about the new law, and ask them to post a no-gun sign if they are to keep your business. Tell them Gun Free Dining Tennessee will provide the signs to them for free.
Lack of information is not just a problem for restaurants, but also for the general public. Most people in Tennessee are unaware of the new law, and could not imagine that it is legal to allow guns and alcohol to mix. If we are to have any chance against the NRA, the most important thing is for you to know the law, be aware of who posts no-gun signs, and choose restaurants that don't allow guns.
The searchable database on our website will help you find places that do not allow guns (GunFreeDiningTennessee.org). There are lots of choices of restaurants that prohibit guns: B.B. King's, Big River Grill, Burger Up, Caffé Nonna, J. Alexander's, Margot, Morton's, Noshville, Old Spaghetti Factory, Ruby Tuesday, The Dog, Music City Flats and many more.
While the NRA is not willing to give an inch after children are massacred, you can make a difference by spending your money wisely. Restaurant owners should still care more about what their customers want than what the NRA wants. This gives you some influence. Ask restaurants and bars to prohibit guns, tell them about the new law, and make sure they post no-gun signs at their entrances before you go in. You can make a difference.
Ray Friedman is president of the advocacy group Gun Free Dining Tennessee.
"The possibility of tyranny is always present"A gun owner says not to abandon our historic Second Amendment rights over 'crazy people and criminals'
By D.M. Adkerson
It is this simple: I have the right to defend myself, and I am ready to use the best current tools available in my pursuit of that right. Some citizens prefer to relegate their security exclusively to the local police or other agency and hope that the good guys arrive before the bad guys reach them. I will call 911, but in the meantime, I will defend myself. Some choose not to act on that fundamental right. But I choose to defend myself, my loved ones, and my property. And I will defend my country from those who would take it, which remains my fundamental right as an American.
Some believe that we are now far too civilized and established a people to worry over such old-fashioned concerns as tyranny. But as we as a society have allowed lessons in civics and history to become ever briefer, with news loud and shallow and context ever lessened, so have we become a people without a memory. The possibility of tyranny is always present. The generation that lived it dwindles, but there are still those living who recall that Hitler was an elected popular leader who through emotional rhetoric helped the civilized Germans regain their self-esteem after the devastations of World War I — except for that whole blame and extermination issue involving the Jews, the homosexuals and the mentally disabled.
Crazy people — or those people whose mamas or daddies or other authority figures did not manage to instill adequate moral comprehension in the children for whom they were responsible (i.e., "stupid people"), or just straight-up bad guys — are always with us. We need to follow our existing laws to keep legal weapons out of the hands of crazy people and criminals, including ex-felons involved in violent crimes. We can try more education geared toward stopping idiots from leaving their loaded weapons for the toddler to find.
But we can't altogether fix stupid, and no amount of lawmaking is gonna change that fact. Since most American citizens do not fall into one of those three categories, it makes no sense for the State to take away my fundamental right to defend myself because of what crazy people, stupid people or criminals might do.
I have the right to defend myself using the current weaponry of the times. I can pull out the gun best suited to my need. I can make my own decisions about the appropriate ammo and amount necessary. With the extended magazine, I am better able to respond if more than one person enters my property to threaten me or mine. Taking away my right to use well-crafted tools carefully and well will not stop criminals and crazy people from killing children.
My right to own and bear arms is so fundamental to the concepts and principles of this country that it remains enshrined as the second of the original 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Second Amendment is necessary to protect the rights of the First. And it is no less valid a concept than the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press enshrined in that First Amendment.
What inept NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre might have said last week, instead of attacking our First Amendment rights in defense of the Second, is to ask why so many children under the age of 18 are watching all those murders. Who is responsible to ensure that they not play video games rated Mature or watch R-rated depictions of violence? The overwhelming majority of such audiences — even the crazy, stupid or criminal — do not act on those violent images. Aristotle might well have pointed out the value of such outlets for our less civilized urges. I know I am calmer today for having watched Django Unchained on Tuesday.
After watching Quentin Tarantino's comic bloodbath, I also frankly have a newfound respect for the revolver. But when the bad guys come my way, I'd still rather have the capacity to shoot 17 instead of 6 before reloading. I have the right to defend myself, and there is nothing criminal in my having an appreciation and affinity for the best tools available to help me accomplish that defense.
D.M. Adkerson is a Nashville writer and instructor.
"You won't prevent all crimes, but you'll prevent some"An armed-robbery victim says more guns are not the answer
By Adam Ross
Let me share with you my numerous experiences with violent crime, gun crime particularly. Sometimes I feel like I'm cursed. I certainly did a couple of years ago when our New York friends were in Nashville to see a Predators game and asked us to join them for a late dinner in East Nashville. About a half-hour into our meal, two masked gunmen entered the restaurant — one with a sawed-off pump-action shotgun, the other carrying a pistol — told everyone to get on the ground, and robbed the place.
Hands folded behind my head, I muttered to myself that it must be my destiny to get capped, since it was my third time being held up at gunpoint. Later, I'd think about how the dude with the shotgun calmly strolled toward our table, looked me right in the eye, and took, of all things, my Blackberry. If I'd been armed, I thought later, in my vainglorious after-the-fact videogame dreams, I could've shot him at close range.
But further analysis started unreeling contingencies. What about the other guy? Would he have fled? Or would we have exchanged gunfire in the restaurant? Who else would we have managed to shoot in the process, if anyone? Had I been killed, or killed someone, or the gunman, would it have been worth the scant cash I carried, or my Blackberry?
Then there was my 2001 incident at Sevier Park. I heard someone say, "Yo!" and turned to see two youths approaching from the top of the hill. "Here we go," I thought, drawing on too many experiences to count, "I'm about to get mugged." But I had my dogs with me, a weapon (OK, a lacrosse stick), and by God, wasn't I also a state-champion wrestler? Let us have at it.
Here's what I didn't do: Run. And that moment of hesitation might've been my undoing.
Both kids, no more than 17, were heavily armed. The one who called out had a Tec-9, the hived suppressor on it so long he had to carry it in two hands. The other had a .38, which he was brandishing gangland style, grip parallel to the ground and barrel pointed at my face. "Get on your knees," the kid with the Tec-9 said. He got no reaction from me — I was still gobsmacked by all the firepower — so he cracked me across the temple with the suppressor. This left a perfectly circular welt, which I'm thankful to say I was able to show my wife later.
Unfortunately, unbelievably, I could go on — I was first mugged when I was 5. But those incidents didn't educate me enough to avoid the paralysis I described earlier. The idea that anyone only partially trained carrying a concealed weapon could've prevented, or at least limited, the deaths in Aurora or Sandy Hook is based on so many variables as to be ludicrous. We the civilized are civilized because we walk around like citizens, not combatants. We don't expect crime. We may be street-smart, but the vast majority of us aren't trigger-ready or battle-tested, and even the well-trained miss (see New York City's recent Empire State Building shooting). Being civilized, we react to the crime, and we react late. That lag is what criminals rely on.
Heightened security, albeit important, is always an after-the-fact Band-Aid. (See: American airline security.) Yes, let us please review safety procedures at our schools. But remember, once the lockdown's taken place, someone's already in your kid's school, shooting up the joint.
I don't want to take guns away from responsible owners. Let them go to the range with their kids and shoot as many targets as they like. Or animals, for that matter. But stricter gun controls are needed. My humble suggestions:
1. You must be 30 years or older to own a gun. That way, your psychological history is well enough established that any flags would appear on a background check. Said background check must include medical/psychological history.
2. Add a prohibitive safety tax to the purchase of any handgun that is proportional to its firepower. So you have to pay, say, an additional $1,000 tax on an AR-15 Tactical rifle, as well as on its bullets. The latter will be known as "the Chris Rock tax."
3. Have the money raised by these taxes fund more school psychologists and give them a more active role in educating their student bodies about warning signs among peers. Make them the vanguard defending our schools from within. You won't prevent all crimes, but you'll prevent some.
4. Eliminate all extended clips.
But Christ Almighty, do something.
Adam Ross is the author of the novel Mr. Peanut and the short-story collection Ladies and Gentlemen.