Letter to the Editor: Guns in Bars: No, Not Really

Ohioans for Concealed Carry President Jeff Garvas writes about the bill being considered in Columbus

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.

Jon Ridinger May 27, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Are you speaking from any experience trying to get a concealed weapons permit? I'd like to hear from actual permit holders as to "how hard/easy" it is to get one and how much it costs. I have heard it's not that easy, which is why I don't have a problem with this at all. The people that hold these permits are the responsible ones since they are law-abiding just to go through the hoops to get these. I could understand people being upset if the new law allowed ANYONE to carry a concealed weapon into a bar or restaurant, but it doesn't do that at all. How often do we hear about shootings where the perpetrator was a concealed weapons permit holder? The people we need to worry about are the people that don't go through all the background checks and requirements to have this privilege but wield a gun anyway (which is still a crime, even with this change in the law). Banning guns in a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol doesn't stop a crazy person from bringing one in and using it in a fit of rage.
Becky Thatcher May 27, 2011 at 02:06 PM
Speaking from experience (husband). Everyone is law abiding before they make an error in judgment. It's not the law abiding factor here, I'll take that as a given. Current law: it's a felony to carry a gun into a bar or restaurant - even if it's not concealed (there are places where you can carry an unconcealed gun w/o a permit - the idea is....the police can see you have a gun. Carrying concealed presents an extra threat as the police don't know you have a gun and I don't know you have a gun. Letting one CCW anywhere isn't going to stop the crazies. I don't feel better knowing that there is an offchance that a CCW permit holder might be around. Heck, why not let guns in school then, if that's your theory? Schools seem to be a magnet for shootings.
Becky Thatcher May 27, 2011 at 02:10 PM
Thought this might be interesting excerpt on what it takes to get a CCW - not too difficult. From Ohioccw.org: "The class, which includes a scheduled 10 hours of book study and 2 hours of practice time firing handguns. Gary began the class by asking everyone to open their guns in order to confirm that none were loaded and to put their ammunition at the front of the room away from their guns. After this we received several booklets pertaining to gun safety and concealed carry laws along with a test and a concealed carry application. It should be noted that this class is only the first step to obtaining a concealed carry permit. After successfully completing the course you would then have to file the concealed carry permit with the county Sheriff who would then conduct a rigorous background check and record your fingerprints. "
Becky Thatcher May 27, 2011 at 02:19 PM
OK I'm on a roll: here's the list of places CCW (CONCEALED CARRYING OF A LOADED FIREARM) not allowed. Let's face it - you can be robbed walking from any of these places. - Police stations, sheriff's offices, highway patrol posts, - Correctional institutions or other detention facilities. - Airport terminals or commercial airplanes. - Institutions for the care of mentally ill persons. - Courthouses - Universities, unless locked in a car or in the process of being locked in a car - Places of worship (unless church allows) - Child day-care centers. - D-Liquor permit premises in which any person is consuming liquor. Exceptions: does not apply to principal holder of D permit as long as principal holder is not consuming liquor; to an agent or employee of the principal holder who is also a peace officer who is also off duty. Possession allowed in a retail store with D-6 or D-8 if concealed carry license holder is not consuming liquor. C. - Government facilities at which government employees are regularly present in the performance of their duties that are not used primarily as a shelter, restroom, parking facility for motor vehicles, or rest facility and is not a courthouse or a building or structure in which a courtroom is located. - School safety zones, unless immediately in process of picking up or dropping off child and you do not exit the vehicle. - private business with sign prohibiting firearms or makes you aware of a policy prohibiting firearms.
Jon Ridinger May 27, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Can you explain the process and costs? No, my "theory" is that people are making a mountain out of a mole hill. This change isn't about bringing guns into a bar, it's about being able to bring them into restaurants that happen to serve alcohol. We don't see shootings perpetrated by people who hold CCWs, they are committed by people who feel their wants are more important than anyone else's. "Letting one CCW anywhere isn't going to stop the crazies." Nope, never said it would. It's not about stopping the crazies as much as it's allowing law-abiding citizens to go about their business without being unnecessarily inconvenienced. "I don't feel better knowing that there is an offchance that a CCW permit holder might be around." I don't feel "safer" because there may be CCW permit holders present, but on the flip side I also don't feel any less safe if this is passed and they may be present in a few more places now. Again, how many shootings have we heard about where the criminal was a CCW holder? Not to say it can't happen, but if someone is bent on killing someone, a rule prohibiting concealed weapons in a restaurant that serves alcohol isn't going to stop them. Guns in schools? I actually don't have a problem with properly trained and licensed people having a gun in a school (cops do it regularly). Again, these are the law-abiding and responsible people. How many school shootings were done by people who had CCW permits?
Jon Ridinger May 27, 2011 at 02:23 PM
And yes, a police officer is just as likely to go nuts with a gun as a concealed weapons permit holder. They're all human in the end.
James Thomas May 27, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Becky Thatcher May 27, 2011 at 02:50 PM
My good friend, a criminal defense attorney who truly believes that people do make mistakes and need help with the system, calls this his right to work act. I have lost my cool in the car watching some moron drive 90 mph and weave through traffic and felt my blood pressure zoom. Sadly, as a young adult, I drove while I was not sober - I was not caught but I should not have been driving. Law abiding citizens make mistakes. The mix of an alcohol drinking crowd around one sober person at 1 am.....just has me asking why? The inconvenience to the CCW carrying person (again, carrying a loaded gun, in public, with every intention of using it if the owner so decides, is frightening in my opinion - and I have handled/shot guns). I understand the immediacy of shooting and the irrevocable nature of the act. I can leave the scene if an armed police officer appears. How do I know that the CCW permit holder has a permit when he/she decides to pull out a weapon? How do I protect myself? The inconvenience of the CCW permit holder to have to leave the gun outside of the restaurant (no need to leave it in the car - just leave it at home) doesn't outweigh the overall safety of the public in the bar. And, the change does permit CCW in a bar. To say it's only for restaurants is disingenuous.
Jeff Garvas May 27, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Becky: You're missing the point. It's illegal to be in a bar with a gun today, its a felony as you pointed out. It's also illegal in Ohio to be "anywhere" while "under the influence" - that is a misdemeanor today, and will be a felony if HB45 becomes law. What you keep talking about (being around a bunch of drunks at 1am with a gun) is unlikely and impractical because anyone who is "going to a bar" is typically, 99% of the time or more often, going there to drink alcohol, so by definition they wouldn't be carrying a gun. This doesn't "make people" do something new in bars. Its about being allowed into a restaurant if the person isn't drinking or under the influence. Its not about bars at all, but you keep implying that "at 1am" around a bunch of drunks scenario. If we say that we shouldn't have rights because some people, somewhere, at some time in their life might break the law then all of us would be shackled and locked in our homes because someone "might" break a law. Based on your past offenses we should ban all driving by the young - right? You're focusing your conclusion on emotional predictions of mayhem instead of sound reasonable logic. Sooner or later, reality prevails over your emotional fears of what "might" happen and its backed up by about seven years of Ohio's concealed handgun laws and decades of the rest of the country allowing people to carry into restaurants -- what you're concerned of doesn't happen.
Becky Thatcher May 27, 2011 at 03:58 PM
If it is unlikely to occur (i.e. a person CCW in a bar at 1 am), why allow it? Why not narrowly craft the definition of restaurant in the law? Perhaps the law can state that the person CCW must be at the establishment for the purpose of dining (or waiting for a table to be available) in order to have a CCW? If the kitchen closes at 9 - (no meals after that) - then no problem. Or better yet, just say no CCW after 9 because who in OH dines after that?? Before the CCW laws, we did not have mayhem. We would not have mayhem without the CCW laws. I believe that your argument is the more emotional one, appealing to fears of others attacking you. What are you afraid of?
Jeff Garvas May 27, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Becky: The reason is because Ohio doesn't differentiate between a bar and a restaurant in Ohio law, and there is no easy, clean, simple method to differentiate between a bar and a restaurant since so many restaurants have bars in them, serve food, etc. Thats why. The focus is on are you drinking, are you drunk, or do you intend to drink? Its really a simple law. Try to define a restaurant vs. a bar, and you will enter the realm of ugly legislation that nobody knows how to properly follow the law. Finally, I'm glad you believe that we didn't have mayhem before CCW laws and that you feel a need to turn this into what do I fear. I don't fear anything, I carry a gun because I might need it one day and hope I don't. I treat the fire extinguisher in my house the same way, but I don't have an unusual fear of fires. In both cases I'd call 911, but I'm prepared to defend my life in both cases too.
Becky Thatcher May 27, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Thanks Jeff. I've been thinking about this a lot today (as you can tell). I just cannot agree that there is a need for this legislation at all - and if a mistake is made, it has the potential to be more costly to all parties. If the police appear in a fracas and shoot the CCW person in error, if the CCW person shoots another person in a manner that is not self defense (or mis-aims), if a person takes the gun away from the CCW person - all costly mistakes. Do you think we had mayhem before the CCW? Do you truly feel this is necessary? Or do you just want the right? If you just want the right, will you respect the rights of bar owners and restaurant owners who post signs prohibiting CCW and not "call them out" on it? I fail to see this as a positive step. In the 7 yrs of CCW laws, while I have not heard of a CCW person making a mistake, I have also not heard of one instance where a CCW person shot/killed another person in self defense while CCW. Nor have crime rates significantly decreased.
Jeff Garvas May 27, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Becky, in my opinion, concealed handgun laws are not about a recognizable "net effect" on crime because crime historically and for the rest of our lives will always follow a cyclical pattern that can never be attributed to one single solution. Are there people in jail who say their biggest fear is armed resistance? Yes. I believe your object Becky is that you're opposed to individuals possessing a firearm at all. So ask yourself, are you opposed to our police officers (natural human beings) being armed? Probably not. So if you can accept them being armed, why can't you accept your fellow citizens being armed? Have there been uses of a firearm (either presented or fired) that were justified use of self-defense? Absolutely, but they tend to remain localized stories you won't hear because the news media in your market is more interested in reporting on all the people who were shot or raped that day. See: http://ohioccw.org/201003154825/ohio-self-defense-repository.html for a partial listing of recent cases of self-defense. There are people like me who seek out the training and the education to carry a handgun and do so safely. Yes, there are always bad apples in society, thats why we have so many drunk driving fatalities. But do you see anyone saying we should ban automobiles over it? Not at all.
Becky Thatcher May 27, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Jeff: this excerpt from your message led me to conclude that you thought CCW had an effect on what was happening before CCW laws: Sooner or later, reality prevails over your emotional fears of what "might" happen and its backed up by about seven years of Ohio's concealed handgun laws and decades of the rest of the country allowing people to carry into restaurants -- what you're concerned of doesn't happen. I am not opposed at all to individuals possessing firearms. Please don't presume this. Without getting into a lot of detail, suffice it to say that firearms are not far away from me as I write this at home. Just absolutely do not see why you (or I) need to carry a firearm to a bar. Period. You can call it anything you want - a bar is for drinking and guns/alcohol do not mix - don't you agree with that? I have not yet looked at your link - please tell me: did any self-defense issues arise in a bar? The education needed to carry a handgun is laughable. 2 hrs of training. 10 book hrs of study. Just can't agree with you Jeff. And therein lies the beauty of this country, we don't have to agree with one another and we do not fear retribution because of our disagreement. So, as we part (and I must go), I will vote with my feet and money. Best wishes.
Jeff Garvas May 27, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Becky, I think its smart to say that CONSUMPTION of alcohol and a lot of things don't mix, including firearms. I think you keep focusing on bars, while the whole point of the original editorial was to point out that this bill is about restaurants and NOT consuming alcohol. The legislation was designed specifically to prohibit the consumption of alcohol and possession of a firearm with strict penalties, so bars = highly unlikely. You seem concerned someone "in a bar" might come across a drunk despite the stark reality that taking a gun into a bar will remain hugely unlikely. Why would someone go to a bar not to drink? It'd be a rarity. If that happened, and if that person were to "encounter" a drunk or belligerent person it would be no different than if they encountered that same drunk and belligerent person outside of the confines of that bar, anywhere else they could be lawfully armed today. A person I could see going armed into a "bar" is the vendors that service those coin operated machines during the day. They carry large sums of money and they typically carry a firearm, yet today they can't walk into a bar despite their sole purpose being collection money. The link I gave you is a partial list of about 10 or so published reports of self-defense since 2005 with a firearm in Ohio, you said you knew of 0, but why would I have one from a bar if its a felony / illegal today? I respect your opinion, but lets stop pretending this is about bars - it's not.
john May 28, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Good article! Becky, there are crazy people everywhere, thats why we carry. Second, i trust my friends and family BEFORE i would EVER trust a police officer with a firearm! ANYDAY! We have more training and experience than MOST police officers will ever have.
Jeff Garvas May 28, 2011 at 08:20 PM
Kentite: In a country with more than 80 million gun owners who own somewhere in the ballpark of 250+ million firearms your catch phrase is meaningless. More people are killed in automobile accidents than through intentional, accidentally, or justified use of deadly force with a firearm. Should we ban cars?
Jon Ridinger May 29, 2011 at 12:24 AM
It's irrelevant what they are intended for; all that matters is what they are used for. Planes are also meant to get us from point A to point B, but as we learned 10 years ago, they can also be used as missiles when the wrong people get ahold of them. And lest we forget, the 9/11 hijackers didn't need a gun or even an established weapon to seize control of the planes; they used box cutters, which also aren't meant to kill, they're "meant" to make cutting boxes open easier. Are guns designed to kill? Yes (also designed to injure), but they also fill the role of intimidation. There's a reason a cop doesn't just automatically pull his gun out and shoot. No, he pulls it out and *threatens* to shoot. Many times he has to shoot, but many times, the threat is enough to avoid violence. The same is true in instances where a victim has a gun; the very existence and potential use of that gun can certainly be a detriment to the crime. Not always, but more than 0. On top of that, it is a constitutional right to bear arms whether people like it or not (I do not own a gun, by the way). The point of any type of gun control legislation is to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people, not prevent use by anyone. Which is more dangerous? A CCW permit holder in an alcohol-serving establishment or a 16 year old licensed driver behind the wheel of a car?
Jon Ridinger May 29, 2011 at 03:04 AM
That's a red herring to the debate. The point of bringing up driving is that far more people are killed by driving accidents than by guns and even less by those with CCW permits. Even though the purpose of cars isn't to kill, they are involved in far more deaths and injuries than guns. And no, even if you raised the driving age to 21, deaths and injuries involving cars would still dwarf those that are gun-related. As I said before, I do not own a gun nor is there one in my house or even plans to own one. I hope I never have to use a gun, but I recognize that A) we have a right to be armed straight from the 2nd amendment, and B) there are times when tragedies could've been avoided if someone else had a gun (like Virginia Tech or Columbine) or instances where tragedy WAS avoided because of a gun (various home intrusions foiled by the owner having a gun). Please stop trying to put words or thoughts into my mind like I'm "at war" with my fellow citizens. Those that have CCW permits and feel the need to have them aren't at war either. They have them in the unlikely, but still possible, event that they may need them. It's called being prepared. You seem threatened by the fact that others may be armed legally. If so, I'm sorry you feel that way. Yes, guns can kill, but responsible people with guns can be a protection. Not everyone who has a loaded gun intends to use it; I'd say most don't.
T C June 01, 2011 at 11:47 AM
Becky: A few miles over, Pennsylvanians can and do carry concealed into bars across the state, and they don't have any of these problems you are suggesting will befall Ohio. Heck, you're allowed to drink while carrying in PA; still no problems. The PA license is even easier to obtain that Ohio's; still... no problems.
* June 01, 2011 at 04:53 PM
* June 01, 2011 at 04:54 PM
In 2009, for example, there were six confirmed mass shootings (defined as three or more deaths) by concealed carry permit holders, including the Fort Hood shooting by Nidal Malik Hasan and the killing of three policemen by Neo-Nazi Richard Poplawski in Pittsburgh. Currently 34 states have "Shall-Issue" laws that require law enforcement officials to approve permits for any applicant who passes a basic computerized background check through the FBI's NICS database (which is missing millions of disqualifying records). Individuals with misdemeanor criminal convictions, DUI offenses, past domestic abuse restraining orders, and histories of voluntary commitment to psychiatric instituitions can and do obtain permits legally. Training requirements—if there are any for permit holders—are no more rigorous than a single day-class in instruction.
* June 01, 2011 at 04:55 PM
The gun lobby has also frequently suggested that carrying a concealed handgun in public is a constitutional "right." However, the Supreme Court was clear on this issue in their decision in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. "The Second Amendment right is not unlimited," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia. "It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. "
* June 01, 2011 at 04:57 PM
* June 01, 2011 at 04:58 PM
George Sodini On August 4, George Sodini , 48, walked into the LA Fitness Center in Collier, Pennsylvania, wearing workout gear. In his pocket was a .32 semiautomatic handgun. He carried a duffel bag with three more handguns: two 9mm semiautomatic pistols with 30-round clips and a .45 caliber revolver. All told, he was carrying 150 rounds of ammunition. Sodini entered an exercise room where an aerobics class was taking place, turned off the lights, and opened fire, emptying one of the 9mm pistols. He then drew the second 9mm pistol and continued firing. In his last act, Sodini drew the .45 revolver and shot himself in the head. When the smoke cleared, at least 36 rounds had been fired and three women lay dead. Nine other women were wounded in the shooting. Within minutes of the tragedy becoming national news, a journal that Sodini had posted online was discovered. In it, Sodini provided his name, date of birth, and hometown—and in a series of entries dating back to November 2008 detailed his plans to commit mass murder. Sodini held a permit to carry a concealed handgun in the state of Pennsylvania.
Jon Ridinger June 01, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Six? Out of how many CCW permit holders? Yeah, you're bound to have crazies in there. I don't think anyone is saying that all CCW permit holders are immune from going off the deep end or that the process is perfect, but connecting their status as permit holders to their mass shootings is a stretch at best. It's like saying it's not safe to fly because there were, say, 6 plane crashes in a given year and hundreds of people died in them. Never mind there are thousands of safe flights *per day*, meaning the likelihood of dying in a plane crash is not far above 0. Same with dying because of the irrational actions of a CCW permit holder (or a police officer for that matter). And the Ft. Hood thing, wow, they guy was in the military, not just some average Joe with a concealed weapon. He was likely far more trained to use firearms just from basic training than your average CCW permit holder. Bottom line is that when someone is bent to kill other people, nothing else matters. Even the best screening process isn't going to be able to detect future mental problems that could lead to that without huge protests of profiling and invasion of privacy. Please also remember that the source you cited is hardly neutral.
* June 01, 2011 at 08:10 PM
And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honor and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race that can understand. ~George Bernard Shaw
* June 01, 2011 at 11:48 PM
He who loves the bristle of bayonets only sees in the glitter what beforehand he feels in his heart. It is avarice and hatred; it is that quivering lip, that cold, hating eye, which built magazines and powder-houses. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
* June 01, 2011 at 11:50 PM
Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
* June 01, 2011 at 11:52 PM
The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety. ~Henry Louis Mencken


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