As Ohio lawmakers debate legislation that would allow licensed citizens to carry a concealed, holstered handgun into restaurants that serve alcohol, opponents of the bill continue to reject an intellectually honest discussion of the facts. They've morphed the “restaurant carry” discussion into a campaign of fear.
This legislation simply never mixes alcohol consumption and handgun possession, period, regardless of what you’ve read or been told.
Ohio’s concealed handgun licensees already can carry into nearly any burger joint. But if they try to have a hamburger and Coke at a Max & Erma’s while armed, they commit a crime. The only difference between the lawful and criminal act is the presence of a liquor license at a particular restaurant.
That's the simple problem that "restaurant carry" legislation is designed to fix.
This legislation simply was never about being able to carry a gun into a bar – it's about being able to retain your gun at a Max & Erma’s instead of leaving it in the car as an invitation to thieves and thugs.
It is already a misdemeanor to be in possession of a handgun while under the influence of alcohol. The proposed legislation INCREASES that penalty to a felony, a year or more in jail, and the loss of one's right to own a firearm ever again.
When you see stories implying that people will start carrying guns into bars, remember: There are more than 210,000 concealed carry licensees in Ohio. You encounter them every day as they go to and from picnics, supermarkets, weddings, barbecues, liquor stores, and homes – all of which are opportunities to consume as much alcohol as they please.
So, what keeps them from doing exactly that? The law – the same law they had to scrupulously obey in order to qualify for their concealed carry license in the first place. And the same law that will make it a felony to carry in a bar while consuming alcohol.
Fear-mongering opponents of this legislation also have scared some into thinking that the proposed law entitles citizens to carry firearms into sports stadiums. But the truth is exactly the opposite – nothing in the bill prevents sporting franchises from continuing to prohibit firearms on their premises, as they already do today.
The Ohio FOP misleads you with “guns and alcohol don’t mix,” but when you point out all law enforcement in Ohio was given this very right to be in a restaurant, off duty, without any prohibition on consumption their current president falls back on their standard “we have more training” red herring. They also have FOP lodges with Class D liquor permits.
Contradicting their catchphrase the FOP now implies there is a level of training that makes mixing guns and alcohol acceptable, but only if you’re a cop – don’t fall for it.
Since our legislation is strictly about not drinking any alcohol their position is akin to saying a concealed handgun licensee may walk down the bread aisle of a grocery store, but only police officers may walk down the liquor aisle.
If we're going to continue to discuss the restaurant carry bill, let's at least "keep it real." That's what honest and reasonable people deserve.
-Jeff Garvas, President, Ohioans For Concealed Carry
Editor's Note: Ohioans for Concealed Carry authored the original legislation about the issue, House Bill 203.