Is It Illegal to Possess a Firearm While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs?

Being intoxicated while carrying a gun can result in jail time, fines, and revocation of any firearms permits.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 02, 2024

Being intoxicated while carry a firearm is not only dangerous but also a crime. A conviction can mean incarceration, fines, and revocation of a conceal carry or other firearm permit.

Is It Illegal to Possess or Carry a Firearm While Intoxicated?

Yes, it's almost always a crime to carry a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance. Some states make it a crime to carry a firearm while consuming alcohol or drugs regardless of whether the person is intoxicated.

Most often, these offenses come with misdemeanor penalties. However, if a person points the gun at someone or discharges it, they can face harsher or additional penalties for reckless endangerment, unlawful discharge of a weapon, or brandishing a firearm. On top of criminal penalties, a conviction for any of these crimes could disqualify someone for a conceal carry permit. (See Mich. Comp. Laws § 28.425b (2024).)

Can I Carry a Firearm While Drinking If I Have a Conceal Carry Permit?

Still no. Having a concealed carry permit does not allow a person to carry a gun wherever or however they want. Permits come with restrictions—a common one being not to carry while intoxicated.

A person who has a permit and carries a firearm while under the influence could face criminal penalties and lose their permit. Oklahoma law, for instance, mandates a six-month suspension of a handgun license upon being convicted of carrying a weapon under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For a similar violation, Minnesota revokes a person's conceal carry permit and prohibits reapplication for a year. (Minn. Stat. § 624.7142 (2024); Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1289.9 (2024).)

Is It Illegal to Carry a Firearm in a Bar?

Yes, it's generally illegal to carry firearms into bars. Most states prohibit people from carrying a firearm in any type of establishment that serves liquor (including restaurants and clubs), even with a concealed carry permit. These prohibitions apply regardless of whether the person is consuming alcohol. Some states have extended these laws to include cannabis establishments.

Penalties for a violation vary. While many states make it a misdemeanor for bringing a firearm into a liquor establishment, several states impose felony penalties. Ohio, for one, makes it a fifth-degree felony to possess a firearm in a bar. The penalty increases to a third-degree felony if the weapon is knowingly concealed. New Mexico makes this offense a fourth-degree felony. New York law imposes class E felony penalties for criminal possession of a firearm in a business licensed for on-site consumption of alcohol or cannabis. (N.M. Stat. § 30-7-3 (2024); N.Y. Penal Law § 265.01-e (2024); Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.121 (2024).)

Maine doesn't impose felony penalties but a conviction automatically revokes a person's conceal carry permit for at least five years. In Tennessee, a conviction means a three-year suspension of an enhanced permit. (Me. Stat. tit. 17-A, § 1057 (2024); Tenn. Code § 39-17-1321 (2024).)

Getting Legal Help

Penalties for violating firearms laws relating to alcohol or drugs can include serious fines and long jail terms. Anyone who has a substance abuse problem may also be considered a prohibited person under federal and state laws. If you have specific questions or are facing firearms-related charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Gun laws are highly state specific, so it's best to consult with a local attorney who knows the gun laws in your state.

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