By Shiva Rodriguez (2016)
Over twenty years ago I was a bartender at a night club. In the
area at the time there would be news about people driving drunk and
killing themselves and others on almost a weekly basis, these incidents
often happening right around the time the bars closed.
powers that be in the area (I can't recall if it was city, county, or
perhaps even state) decided to put some responsibility on the people who
served alcohol, correctly assuming that an intoxicated patron was
unlikely to be able to judge for his/herself if they'd had too much to
All of the bartenders and waitresses were required to
attend a long class that focused a lot on determining whether or not
someone has had too much to drink. It wasn't perfect, as some people get
giddy on a single glass of Chablis while others can down a bottle of
Wild Turkey 101 and still be able to do advanced algebra without
slurring. But we were given guidelines and told to always error on the
side of caution. If someone arrived to the establishment drunk, we could
not give them service. However, we could (and did) take their car keys
and call them a cab.
Now, we all knew that there were a lot of
flaws in the law here. How would anyone know where the bloke was or who
served him if he died in a drunk driving accident? What were the
chances of anyone remembering their server's name if they were pulled
over for DUI? And this certainly didn't apply to the people who drank
at home before deciding to get behind the wheel.
However, it was
enough to put some fear into the people in the bar industry. At the
minimum, we'd lose our well-paid jobs. At worst, we'd be arrested,
fined, and maybe even do some jail time if it wasn't our first slip-up.
So we took every precaution to make sure no one made it to the parking
lot if they'd had too much to drink.
My idea about requiring
clearance from a mental health professional in order to get a gun permit
is actually a lot tighter. Obviously there would be a paper trail that
leads directly to the doorstep of the doctor who signed off on the
Having a law in place did not stop us from
serving alcohol. I'm sure it wouldn't stop doctors from signing the
required forms for their patients to obtain a gun... if they honestly
believe that the patient is fit to own one (just as we had to determine
if a customer was in the right condition to handle a drink.)
require renewal of a permit every couple of years (or even yearly, for
that matter) would also help catch developing or escalating conditions.
Mental health is tricky, and it wouldn't be surprising if someone who
was cleared for gun ownership one year may be flagged a few years later.
It's not perfect. Nothing ever is. And it doesn't stop people
from buying guns illegally on the street. I have thoughts on that too.
Remember I said that even though the club workers knew that it would be
difficult to determine who served the drunks, we still took a lot of
care to make sure we complied with the law? We did so because none of
us wanted to deal with the consequences. I have no idea if there really
were undercover cops going into bars and observing, but rumours that
that was happening were certainly flying around. It simply was not
worth the risk to us.
Now apply that to folks who sell guns on the street.
It's easy to assume that criminals do illegal things because they don't
care about the laws and don't think they'll ever be caught. With some
types of crimes, that may be true. A lot of serial killers and serial
rapists thought that they were smarter than the police. People who go on
suicide missions obviously don't worry about the consequences of their
actions. But the bloke who sells drugs, guns, and stolen goods is more
likely to weigh those pros and cons when operating his business.
Seriously. If you make a career out of doing something, even if that
something is illegal, you are likely to know the laws and weigh the
risks. Many career robbers wouldn't dream of actually shooting their
victims because 20-to-life (or even the death penalty) is not a good
gamble for whatever tangible goods they'd get out of the crime.
In the world today, even the unprofessional thugs and home-breakers run
as fast as they can when things start going wrong rather than shoot
potential witnesses, especially in a world where cameras are everywhere
and that picture can go viral on social media within mere minutes if
someone wants to identify you.
With that in mind, would it be too
far-fetched to think that someone dealing firearms on the street might
reconsider his/her merchandise if the penalty for getting caught was a
mandatory 20-to-life sans parole?
Of course there would be a few
who would gladly take the risk. But I'm guessing that a lot of them
wouldn't and that would mean that it would be harder for someone who
can't meet the permit requirements to illegally obtain a gun. The risk
involved would also make the price tag on a black market gun go up
It would not completely fix the problem, but it may well help lower the body count.