James Hayman: It wasn’t really McCabe’s kind of place. Or Maggie’s either. A dreary little hangout on the edge of town somewhere in rural Georgia where a few hardcore drinkers started downing shots at about eight in the morning and kept on downing them well into the day. There was a brief surge of lunchtime traffic between twelve and one. Most of the lunchtime crowd didn’t order more than a beer or two before heading back to work. After that things quieted down till four or five o’clock in the afternoon when a bunch of the regulars who had real jobs at the local auto parts plant would drift in as soon as their shifts were over. They’d start drinking and keep on drinking right up until the time they knew they had to head home to face angry spouses, ignored children or, among the lonelier, dogs, cats, goldfish or parakeets who had gone over the brink.
Most of the shift workers drank beer. Usually Bud or PBR because it was cheap. Sometimes Terrapin or SweetWater because it was local and some of the better off among them cared about supporting local. Some of the drinkers, many of them leftovers from the morning and afternoon crowds, went for the harder stuff. Bourbon. J.W. Dant or Jim Beam being the favorites. Or rye. George Dickel the one most asked for. Occasionally somebody unknown would wander in and ask for something more expensive. A vodka or gin martini or if it was a woman a cosmo or the latest fruit cocktail dreamed up by the barkeep.
For a long time things had stayed pretty peaceful. There were, of course, disagreements among customers. Sometimes one jerk would make a slightly clumsy and usually drunken pass at another jerk’s wife or girlfriend. Or some other jerk would make a stupid remark that would piss yet another jerk off . Maybe the disagreement grew out of somebody spilling somebody else’s beer and refusing to apologize or pay for it. Maybe it grew out of nothing.
Frequently these disagreements led first to nasty remarks and then to fisticuffs. But things didn’t usually get too far out of hand because everybody knew the barkeep kept a 34 inch, solid ash Louisville Slugger under the bar and wasn’t afraid to use it to keep unruly or overly aggressive customers under control and convince them that it was time to go home before any real damage was done either to themselves or to others.
Then, weirdly, after the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, everything changed. And not in the way one would have expected. Among other weird outcomes, the State of Georgia passed a “carry anywhere” law that allowed people to openly carry guns into bars, hospitals, schools or pretty much anywhere else they wanted. More or less at the same time twenty-three out of the fifty states approved “stand your ground” laws like the one that led to the death of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.
What that meant for the dreary little hangout on the edge of town was that many, maybe most, of the customers were packing heat. Which in turn meant anytime one of the drunks got pissed off, the barkeep’s Louisville Slugger didn’t cut much ice.
All the drunk had to do was pull his gun before the other drunk could pull his and bang-bang, just like that, somebody was dead. And because the one who was still alive could say he thought he was being threatened by the one who was dead, no crime had been committed. In other words legalized murder. And cops like Mike McCabe or Maggie Savage couldn’t do a damned thing about it.
In places like Georgia, I suspect the body count has only begun to rise. But never fear, legalized murder in America is just getting started as a growth industry. Where it will stop no one can predict. For those of you interested in such things, here’s a list of the states that have passed both open carry and “Stand your ground” laws. Read it and weep.