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Gun Control Advocates Lobby Bar and Restaurant Owners

Friday, September 30, 2011 at 3:54 PM

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Ohioans with permits are now allowed to carry concealed weapons into bars and other places that serve alcohol - as long as they don't drink. But as Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports, opponents of the law that allows guns in bars haven’t given up.

The law allows concealed carry weapons permit holders to bring their guns into bars and alcohol-serving restaurants requires that those carrying their weapons don’t drink. It was signed June 30 after passing both the House and Senate fairly easily. Now it’s in effect, and Brian Rothenberg with Progress Ohio says it’s an example of how ideology and politics trumped common sense, but he says opponents still have a tool to fight it.

“But the people of Ohio do have an opportunity here to take things into their own hands, and that is to do a ‘people’s veto’ by asking all of their restaurants, by asking all of the bars and the establishments they go to, to put a sign up that says, ‘no guns in bars’.”

The sign is already on display in the windows and doors of many non alcohol-related businesses around the state. The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence has been going door-to-door, asking bar owners if they’ll consider putting up the signs. One bar owner who did is Bernard Lamp, owner of Bernard’s Tavern near downtown Columbus. He says he owns a handgun, but not a concealed carry permit. And he hopes the sign makes his position clear, for the protection of his patrons and staff.

“Most people who come into a bar come into a bar to have a drink. So why would they need to have their gun with them? I just don’t – I’m all for the right to bear arms, I’m all for that, but I think this has gone a little bit overboard.”

But other owners of places that serve alcohol aren’t worried. Byron Rosenthal is with Hog Heaven, a local chain of barbecue restaurants that serve alcohol in Tuscarawas and Stark Counties. Rosenthal, who is a concealed carry weapons permit instructor, says those with permits are welcome – and they could make bars and restaurants safer.

“If the public knows, which they do, those who are illegal carriers – troublemakers – are going to be a little more concerned about doing anything because there’s bound to be somebody there that is carrying a firearm that may defend themselves. So I think it should cut down on any of the problems that might have been there before.”

And Chad Baus with the Buckeye Firearms Association predicts that no incidents will result from this change in the law, but he’s fine with bar owners notifying potential customers that concealed weapons aren’t allowed.

“Sure, it’s their right to post the signs, but I guess I would just say that in the mean time, there’s more than a quarter of a million people who have these licenses and they’re just simply going to patronize establishments that do want their business.”

But the concerns of gun control activists aren’t going away - the lawmakers who sponsored the legislation say their goal is to expand the types and number of places where concealed weapons are permitted throughout Ohio.

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Economy, Regional Economy/Business - News, Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement, Government/Politics, Statehouse News Bureau

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