Country music star Toby Keith is facing some backlash from gun owners after one of his new I Love This Bar And Grill restaurants in Woodbridge, Virginia posted a “No Guns Permitted” sign outside its premises.
“I’ll never eat here. Lawfully armed and spending my money elsewhere,” read one of many disgruntled reviews on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
The furor spurred a response by the restaurant, explaining, “While we understand and respect every person’s right to own and bear arms, we at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, with guidance from the State of Virginia and based on insurance regulations, have adopted a no weapons policy. It is our desire to provided a safe, enjoyable and entertaining experience for our patrons and staff.”
That did little to quell the ire of gun owners, one whom responded to the restaurant’s Facebook message by saying, “Your post regarding your stance on not allowing patrons to defend them selves should the need arise is a total cop out to the bad publicity that your bad policy has initiated.”
But gun owners may actually be legally allowed to carry loaded weapons in Keith’s restaurant under Virginia law, irrespective of what the sign says. Virginia is one of at least six states — the others being Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona — that explicitly allows loaded guns in bars. “No Guns Permitted” signs don’t actually have the force of law in Virginia unless the state specifically lists the facility as one where people cannot carry guns.
Another 18 states allow loaded weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol, according to a 2010 New York Times report — and data on violence in America suggests that could be dangerous policy. Gun owners are far more likely to binge drink, drive drunk, and engage in other risky behaviors than people who don’t own guns, according to a 2011 report in the medical journal Injury Prevention. Furthermore, arguments and fights that often involve drinking or a perceived insult lead to nearly half of all homicides and an estimated 40 percent of men and 30 percent of women who killed someone had been drinking at the time.
Keith has previously performed at rallies sponsored by the National Rifle Association and has spoken in support of gun rights. “If one percent of non-felons would go get their concealed weapons license and carry a gun where they can, one percent puts you in a pretty good position of being somebody that could save a bunch of people’s lives,” he said at a 2011 event.