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Ohio bill in the line of fire, supporters stick to their guns

Two concealed carry bills have Ohioans up in arms over the possibility of allowing guns in bars.

The bills, House Bill 45 and Senate Bill 17, would allow those with concealed carry licenses to bring their weapons into establishments that serve alcohol. This includes restaurants, stadiums and bars, the last of which is a main point of contention among anti-gun advocates.

The bills have yet to go to Gov. John Kasich’s desk, but he has long been a vocal supporter of the second Amendment, which establishes the right to bear arms.

While pro-gun groups are preparing for a “hard-earned” victory, their counterparts are vehemently opposing both bills.

Anti-gun advocates, such as Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said the bills create a public safety risk.

“Anytime you increase the carrying in public you’re increasing the risk,” Hoover said.

In her opinion, mixing guns and alcohol is never a good idea.

“One of the biggest things is when you put someone with a firearm in an environment where there is drinking going on, and arguments and brawls going on, you are just asking for more trouble,” she said.

Ohio State University Police Chief Paul Denton told The Lantern at the end of April that allowing people to bring their weapons into bars could make it harder for police officers to do their job.

“In the event of a hostile shooter, having other armed individuals will only complicate what’s already a confusing and difficult situation,” he said. “Our police officers will face the additional problem of identifying who is a friend and a foe, and that places themselves and others at a greater risk.”

Linda Walker, Central Ohio Chair of Buckeye Firearms Association, said despite what many think, guns and alcohol will not be mixing.

“Guns and alcohol aren’t going to mix because this is zero consumption,” Walker said. “When you are carrying you cannot be under the influence, not even half a beer.”

The proposed law would make consuming any amount of alcohol while carrying your weapon a felony.

Walker said while anti-gun advocates are focusing more on carrying in bars, for many concealed carry supporters, the desire to be able to defend themselves in restaurants is the driving force behind both bills.

“We’re only asking to be able to defend our self-defense when we go out with our family for lunch or dinner,” Walker said. “It’s really no different from me going to dinner at Bob Evans and carrying, but I can’t go across the street to Applebee’s and do the same thing just because Applebee’s has a bar.”

USG President Nick Messenger, a second-year in political science and economics, said the bills pose a large concern for students at OSU.

“They raise a lot of questions about our safety in bars, especially along High Street,” Messenger said.

Messenger said if the bills pass, USG will work in conjunction with bars to ensure student safety.

“One of our big pushes will be to talk to all the bar owners on our streets and for them to ban concealed carry in their bars,” Messenger said. “We’re not against the bill, but we are nervous about the provision of carrying inside bars.”

David Hoffman, a fourth-year in history, has had his concealed carry license for almost two years. He said he feels as though license holders should not be restricted in where they are able to defend themselves.

“I take it if I go somewhere and they don’t serve alcohol and I think I should be able to take it in somewhere where they do have alcohol,” Hoffman said.

Currently, people who are carrying must lock their guns in their cars before entering establishments that serve liquor.

Concealed carry advocates argue that locking your gun in your car can lead to it ending up in the hands of a criminal.

“Many of us feel it is far safer for us to keep our firearms on our person rather than having to risk being seen disarming in a parking lot and having someone break into the car to steal the firearm,” said Greg Horn, OSU’s director of the grassroots organization Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association said the bills have been blown out of proportion.

“It’s a cleanup bill from last session,” Irvine said. “It’s aligning us with the rest of the country. Everyone knows drinking and driving doesn’t mix, but it doesn’t mean you can’t drive to a bar.”

Some students don’t support the bills.

“I wouldn’t feel safe if people could carry concealed weapons (into bars),” said Michael Petrarca, a first-year in exploration. “You never know what they are going to do with (their weapon).”

There are 42 other states that have some variation of a law that allows people to carry their guns in establishments that serve alcohol.

Individual businesses have the authority to restrict and deny entrance to those carrying weapons.

Despite the zero consumption policy, people who work in the food and beverage industry remain cautious about the implications of mixing guns and alcohol.

Dan Starek, who bartends at Eddie George’s Grille 27, said he supports concealed carry, but is wary about allowing firearms in bars.

“While being a concealed carry advocate, I am skeptical about the new law,” Starek said. “I am not worried about the permit holder but rather I am worried about the intoxicated patron at the bar who sees someone with a weapon and how that intoxicated person would react. Alcohol affects people in different ways, and including firearms could be devastating.”

Starek, who graduated from OSU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in history, said Eddie George’s would not permit entrance to those carrying concealed weapons.

“I doubt any bar on campus would,” Starek said. “Too dangerous.”

Daniel Sherman, who doubles as manager and bartender at Brazenhead Irish Pub in Grandview echos that sentiment.

Sherman, a gun owner himself, said he was not sure how the zero consumption policy would be enacted.

“Am I, as a bartender, supposed to ID you and then pat you down?” Sherman said.

Despite his support for concealed carry, Sherman won’t be backing either bill.

“I still vote no guns in bars,” he said. “I have enough to worry about with drunk knuckleheads.”

 

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