A proposal to allow permit-holding gun owners to carry their concealed weapon into a bar and other places that serve alcohol doesn't make sense to Kent Police Chief Michelle Lee.
Similar bills have passed in the Ohio House and Senate that would allow it, and Ohio legislators are expected to approve a final bill and send it to Ohio Gov. John Kasich to be signed into law.
"Alcohol and guns don’t mix," Lee said. "It’s tough because … I’m pro gun. Being a cop you kind of have to be. But on the other hand, it’s not for everybody. I think a lot of these people who go get (concealed-carry) permits, I don’t think they’re all self-defense minded. I think a lot of them it’s sort of a novel thing to do. There’s a variety of reasons I think why people carry guns. But to have more guns in bars and liquor establishments, I just think is not a good idea.”
She's not alone in her opposition. Ohio law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, have told Ohio lawmakers they think this law is a bad idea.
Lee should know. She cut her teeth as a Kent police officer breaking up bar fights in the late 1980s.
She thinks it's more a matter of convenience for concealed-carry permit holders who simply don't want to have to take off their gun and store it in their car every time they go to a restaurant or place that serves alcohol.
Current law prohibits guns in liquor establishments, which are broadly defined in Ohio law as bars, restaurants, stadiums and other places that serve alcohol.
"I don’t think that (permit holders') rights are being intruded upon by it being permitted or not permitted," Lee said. "That said, I think the law should stay the same. This law would put Ohio in the top five states that have the most progressive (concealed-carry) laws out there. And I just don’t think that’s where we want to be or need to be.”
Like Ohio's law enforcement groups, many of Kent's bar owners oppose the idea of letting someone carry a concealed weapon into their establishment.
The proposed law would prohibit someone from drinking if they carry their gun into a bar or restaurant. Violators would face a felony charge if caught. But law enforcement agencies, and bar owners, say enforcing that would be extremely difficult.
Lee said she understands a law-abiding permit holder's desire to want to be armed at all times, but she wonders if approving this law would create a slippery slope for loosening gun regulations.
"What’s next?" Lee said. "Are they going to lower the standards for CCWs? Are they going to lower the standards for people with felonies (or) violent histories?
"The fact of the matter is, if as an officer someone prohibits me from carrying my weapon, I’m going to oblige," she said. "CCW carriers think they should be armed at all times. I just don’t think that’s necessary."