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Aligning Legal Limits For Alcohol Consumption



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The Fourth of July celebrates the many freedoms Americans enjoy. It is a day when free spirits soar - and alcohol is frequently a companion. So Governor Dannel P. Malloy should be saluted for signing into law on June 8 legislation that aligns the legal limit for handling a firearm while under the influence with the same limits that apply to driving or boating while under the influence.

Prior to that date, those who imbibed while in possession of a firearm had more leeway, with blood alcohol limits for these drinkers set at 0.10g/dL (grams per deciliter) before exceeding the legal limit. For those who drink and drive, that limit is 0.08g/dL.

Not everyone appreciates incremental improvements to safety. A press release issued June 13 by Connecticut Carry, a group dedicated to "advancing the right to keep and bear arms," boasts its opposition to the new alignment of drinking and firearms alcohol blood levels. "This session, one of the bills we resisted was SB 20, which was a bill that reduced the legal Blood-Alcohol limit while carrying a self-defense firearm to .08 instead of the historical .10. That is a rather significant encroachment for anyone that wants to go out and have a good time, enjoying alcohol, but also wants to be able to defend themselves. An arbitrary number means the difference between 'legal' and 'illegal,' but only if you are in possession of the means to defend yourself."

Legislators did not arrive at this number arbitrarily. Bringing the blood alcohol limit for drinking and "defending" into line with laws that reduce the dangers associated with drinking and driving is an action that looks to avoid potential tragedies. Studies by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NAAA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that dangerous behavior goes hand in hand with excessive drinking.

It could be argued that guns are being singled out by this new blood alcohol level limit, when anyone under the influence should not be in possession of any weapon. However, the combined numbers of fatalities each year from cutting or stabbing, by blunt objects, or various other weapons do not total by half the number of deaths by firearms. Gun deaths nearly equal deaths per year in this country from car crashes or boating accidents, so it is prudent to apply the same blood alcohol limits to anyone carrying a gun as we do for drinking and driving.

An Act Concerning Carrying a Firearm While intoxicated or Under the Influence of Alcohol passed with bipartisan support. Elected officials agreed that the combination of alcohol and potentially dangerous items should be regulated, and regulated equally.

The freedom to be safe is no less vital to well-being than the freedom of speech, freedom to criticize government, or the right to a well-armed militia. If this new law saves even one person from an incident involving guns and alcohol, it has served it purpose.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July.

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