Metro columnist Dan Casey: A case study of guns in bars
By Dan Casey
Gov. Bob McDonnell put his signature on a law Tuesday that has been long
desired by the pro-handgun crowd.
Starting July 1, concealed-carry permit holders may legally bring their hidden
handguns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol (but they may not
Whether this prospect frightens you, excites you, or instantly makes you feel
more secure, here's a true story.
It's about a couple of Virginia concealed-carry permit holders, and another
guy, and events that unfolded in a Blacksburg bar on Aug. 30, 1997.
Those permit-holders' names are Terry and Kerry Scales and today they are 35
They're identical twin brothers and they grew up as fine, upstanding,
church-attending young men in Henry County.
Their concealed handgun permits were approved by the Henry County Circuit
Court on Aug. 28, 1997.
The other guy's name is Richard Bullard.
Though he was 6 feet 3 inches tall and 300 pounds, Bullard's friends and
family described him as a gentle giant.
He was 30, single and worked at a Sears store in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
His aunt, Peggy Darden of Biloxi, Miss., said this about him:
"He was not an aggressive person. He could have been a great football player
if he'd have had the killer instinct. He had the size but not the
His sister, Phyllis Bullard, of Waco, Texas, told this newspaper:
"He was so gentle you would not believe. ... I'd start an argument and fuss
with him, and he wouldn't even open his mouth. I always called him my big
On Aug. 30, 1997, Bullard was visiting our region to be part of a wedding
party. One of his best friends, Tim Shoemaker, was marrying a woman from Giles
County, Christina Beasley.
The ceremony took place at a church in Giles County. After a reception in the
church's gym, the bride and groom left for their honeymoon.
Later that night, Bullard and some others from the wedding group decided to
continue the party in Blacksburg.
They wound up at Arnold's Restaurant, a since-closed bar in downtown
The Scales twins and their older brother Leon and their uncle, Marlin Scales,
were at Arnold's as well. And the twins had handguns in their pockets.
The trouble started because one of the men in the Scales group flirted with
one of the women in the wedding party.
That launched an argument, which became a shoving match, which may or may not
have caused Bullard to grab Kerry Scales' neck and begin choking him.
What happened next is not in dispute.
Kerry Scales pulled his .357-caliber revolver out of his pocket and fired five
shots into Bullard's chest and abdomen. Bullard crumpled to the dance floor.
Someone else threw Terry Scales down on the ground. He pulled his .38-caliber
revolver and wildly fired two shots.
One struck Bullard in the head. The other struck Paul Shoemaker, the groom's
cousin, in the chest. He was critically wounded but later recovered.
Bullard was dead on the spot.
The Scales brothers and their uncle ran out the door. The twins hid their
handguns in some nearby trash cans. Police arrested them later, and a grand
jury charged them with second-degree murder.
A jury convicted them and each got 24 years. They're incarcerated at the
Lawrenceville Correctional Center.
At his sentencing hearing, Terry Scales' lawyer asked him this question:
"If you had this to do all over again, would you have taken that gun in there
"No, sir," Terry Scales replied.
There you have it. One man dead, two brothers serving long prison sentences.
Three lives ruined. Because of two handguns in a bar.
And now, nearly 13 years later, it will be legal for concealed handgun permit
holders to take their hidden pistols into Virginia bars and restaurants that
One argument you always hear from the gun lobby is this: Concealed guns are
already in those bars, but they are being carried only by lawbreakers.
The new law levels the playing field, they say.
But this can only result in more guns in Virginia bars.
That cannot be a good thing.
Those permit-holding gun hiders will most likely be trained and sane (though
And at least they will be law-abiding citizens with clean criminal records.
Just as the Scales brothers were -- until Aug. 30, 1997.