In June, a new law which easily passed the Ohio House and Senate was signed by Governor John Kasich, allowing patrons who have concealed weapons permits to bring guns into bars, restaurants, stadiums and other places that serve beer, wine and liquor.
But the permit holders are not allowed to drink alcohol, and if they do, they can be charged with a fifth-degree felony, which carries a penalty of up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Locations that serve alcohol can post a sign barring guns on the premises, which Heimlich said he plans to do.
Ohio is among 44 other states that have similar laws, including Tennessee, where in 2009 lawmakers voted to allow handguns in bars and restaurants; however, state legislators voted to override the governor’s veto.
“Alcohol and guns do not mix in any type of setting,” Scott Heimlich told the Columbus Dispatch; Heimlich owns Barcelona restaurant in German Village and is vice president of the Central Ohio Restaurant Association.
“By inviting them into a restaurant, you’re opening yourself up to issues. The law says they can’t consume alcohol, but will that person be honest and play by the rules and not have a drop of alcohol when they have a gun on them?” Heimlich said.
Representative Danny Bubp, a Republican, said this gun legislation is to protect people who already obey the law.
“You were going to find people with guns (in these places) before, but illegally,” Bubp said. “ We’re now leveling the playing field and allowing those people who have gone through the training to be able to carry so long as they aren’t drinking.”
Bubp, who has a concealed-carry permit, said people who are trained will be responsible. “If I want to drink a Bud Light, I’m not going to carry my weapon,” he said. “If I want to protect my family, I’ll drink a Coke.”
The Dispatch claims permit candidates must complete no less than 12 hours of training including two hours on a firing range, pass a background check and pay several fees to obtain an Ohio concealed-carry permit.
After training, background checks and fees, Rep. Bubp most likely assumes few if any permit holders will be inclined to break the law and risk losing the concealed-carry permit, have criminal charges filed against them and pay a fine.
But there are those who simply do not want citizens to be armed in places where liquor is served, including the police. “We oppose guns in bars, but it’s the law now and we hope that our prediction of increased violence doesn’t come to pass,” said Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police.
“We’ll have to rely on the community, if they see people drinking,” he said. “The problem is the weapon is concealed so there’s no way to know until something bad happens.”
Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition against Gun Violence, believes some legislators are too trusting in people. “Some of these patrons, I wouldn’t put them in a category of who I ought to trust,” Hoover said. “It’s just sort of bizarre.”
Linda Walker, central Ohio chairwoman for the Buckeye Firearms Association, said violence won’t increase. “People think gun violence is going to go up, there’s going to be blood flowing in the streets, or people are going to be shooting people because they got angry with someone,” Walker said.
“We went through this same thing when conceal-carry went into law in 2004. After people got used to it, they saw nothing was going to change.”