Don’t Take Your Guns to Town, Bill

Don't Take Your Guns to Town, Bill
Don't Take Your Guns to Town, Bill

I was just reading the USA Carry article titled Will I know the Time? discussing dementia and gun ownership. As I read the article three thoughts slammed together in my head. The first was the old 1958 Johnny Cash song Don’t Take Your Guns to Town where a mother pleads with her cowboy son to leave his guns at home when he goes off to have a good time in town. The second was a phrase from that song which reads:

He drank his first strong liquor then to calm his shaking hand
And tried to tell himself he had become a man

The third, and final thought, was of a local newspaper article which reported on the shooting and later death of a young boy sitting with his father on their dock at a lake nearby. Based on police reports, a drunken neighbor who was unhappy with a bright pole mounted mercury vapor nightlight attempted to shoot it out. In his impaired condition, the shooter of course completely missed the light and hit the boy.

As a NRA and 4H – Shooting Sports instructor I’m “pro” Gun Rights and applaud Luke’s USA Carry website and its promotion of the right to Carry Concealed. And yet, I very much believe that with rights comes individual responsibility. The responsible gun owner must answer the question above “Will I know the time” more often than many realize.

Consider this – have you ever gone out to dinner where you had a couple of drinks or more, and then gotten into your car and driven yourself and family home? Come on be honest! I’ve done it! You’ve most likely done it, or know friends who have. Just because you didn’t have an accident and got the car into the garage, can you honestly say you were functioning at 100%?

Likewise, did you ever stop to count the number of times you have read or heard a news story about confrontations involving a weapon where the participants were in or just departed from a bar or where alcohol was part of the story?

This past weekend three local news stories about the same person collided here in Lafayette, Indiana. The first was a Saturday night report about a local soldier, who had lost his leg in Afghanistan and was to be honored with a parade for his service on Sunday, having been arrested after an altercation outside of a bar where he had fired two shots – one in the air and one in the ground. On Sunday the story was about the fact that no one showed up for the parade and included organizers comments on whether the parade would ever happen. Then, Monday’s front page story was the young soldier’s public apology to everyone in the community. The local paper asked for comments about honoring someone when events like this happened.

My reply was swift and they even had the courage to print it as follows:

Returning veterans, who serve in the hell holes we send them into, deserve as much support as do those still in the field. Wounded mentally as well as physically, everyone tends to act like they are returning from a business trip.

But, the real point is, when is it time to;

Leave your guns at home Bill
Don’t take your guns to town!

We know from numerous research efforts that within a fixed period after:

  • 1 or 2 drinks – Drinkers begin to feel relaxed, mildly euphoric, sociable, and talkative.
  • 3 to 4 drinks – Judgment, attention, and control are somewhat impaired. Ability to drive safely begins to be limited. Sensory-motor and finer performance are impaired. People are less able to make rational decisions about their capabilities (for example, about driving.)
  • 4 to 5 drinks – This is legally drunk in most states. There is a clearly evident deterioration of judgment, reaction time and control.

My 21 year old son, who is in college and happens to have his CCW, likes to have friends over and often asks to raid my basement refrigerator for “free” beer. But, even at 21, he knows my rule! Your firearms go into the gun safe – and after the second beer, you stay on the property!

I recently followed a woman in her Cadillac down a local street watching her hug the curb and then swing out into the oncoming lane when there was a parked car only swinging back to the curb after passing it. I was calling the police, when she sideswiped a parked car and kept on going, all-be-it at 20 miles an hour. I reported her as drunk and followed her so I could give the police her location. When three police cars arrived and pulled her over I gave them an account of what I observed including where she had sideswiped the parked car, and drove home.

I happened to know one of the policemen, who regularly comes to my NRA Basic Pistol Classes to allow the students time to ask him questions about firearms and law enforcement. He told me it turned out the woman was not drunk! Rather she had just been given a new prescription. And, it was the prescription medication that had caused the observed behavior. He also said on the side of the pill bottle it did say, “Do not operate machinery when taking this drug!”

I have to assume you have noticed that, like a vehicle, a firearm is a piece of machinery!

I would venture a guess that the woman, who was a grandmotherly type, would have been devastated if she had crippled or killed someone. And, I dare say the man who shot and killed the boy on the dock would give anything to have that drunken evening erased.

Everyone who teaches a firearms class, including the NRA in its course material, points out that alcohol and/or drugs (illegal, over the counter or prescription) alter your judgment, physical ability, and control. So, if you want to drink or have to take medications, put your firearms in a secure, out of reach location.

Unlike your dog, your firearms will not miss you! They will not need a walk or to be fed. And, I pray that you never have an event in your life that requires a front-page apology or that you would give anything – to erase.

Be responsible, aware and safe as you enjoy your legal rights!

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Van Phillips uses his long university teaching teaching experience as an NRA Pistol Instructor offering numerous yearly classes in Central Indiana for adults. He is also a 4H Pistol and Shotgun Instructor, CMP and SCTP Coach. Van is a competitive clay target shooter active in both ATA Trap and Sporting Clays. While he teaches pistol to adults so that through knowledge they can be better and safer firearms owners, his passion is empowering the youth who represent the future for continuation of 2nd Amendment and Concealed Carry rites!
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This is a very good point to make and a large part of the reason that I do not drink anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it is not because there was an incident of any sort. Quite the opposite, I did not want a negative incident to take place regarding me and my self-control. Me personally though, I’d much rather have the peace of mind on my hip than a beer in front of me; I’m perfectly ok with water. Unfortunately, some states do not even ban the combination of alcohol and firearms. Unless it has recently changed, Indiana does not forbid legal carriers from consuming alcohol while carrying. My other licensed state, Georgia, allowed legal carriers to carry in bar & grills only while not consuming alcohol.

Learn the lesson from those that have made the mistakes already so you are not doomed to repeat them!


Here in NC, the CCW permit is linked to the drivers license, using the same number on both. I’m assuming that if you lose your right to drive due to dementia, that takes the CCW card as well. Agree that rights carry responsibilities. I don’t want people who can shoot, but don’t know what they’re aiming at.

Brian Wegner

‘Man’s got to know his limitations.’  Macho sounding as it is, it rings of truth.  Know your limits and do not exceed them if you plan to carry – which should be ALWAYS.  One other truth is that trouble won’t steer around just because you’ve decided to leave your gun at home because you’ll be drinking.

Capt A

Are you less likely to be a victim of violent crime because you decided not to carry while you drink?  Perhaps moderation should be the order of the day.


The way I see it, if you are irresponsible enough to drink so much that you cannot make rational decisions (regardless of weather or not you are carrying), then you are probably too irresponsible to be carrying anyway.  That is the true balance of rights and responsibilities.


I rarely go out drinking but if I do I always leave my gun at home. No way I would chance losing my carry permit. Also if I do chose to go out I make sure and stay to the safest part of town and a decent establishment just to put the odds more in my favor.


Great article, as utimmer43 said, if you drink so much that you aren’t making rational decisions then you are too irresponsible to be carrying. The decision to carry should never be taken lightly and much thought and planning should be done. I don’t drink, so it’s easy for me, but I have had to put my gun in the safe while on painkillers for a toothache once. Carrying a gun is a lifestyle, and comes with great responsibility and a great sense of self-awareness.