Ohio Set to Allow Concealed Guns in Bars, Restaurants

Ohio is on the verge of allowing people with concealed-carry permits to take their firearms into many facilities that serve alcohol, including bars, restaurants, and sports stadiums.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed the legislation this week and sent it to Gov. John Kasich's desk. A spokesman for Kasich, a first-term Republican, has said he would sign it.

Opponents say it will lead to a dangerous mix of booze and firearms.

"What Ohio wants to do is totally different from what we're seeing elsewhere," Brian Malte, director of state legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It definitely goes a lot further than other states. I would say it goes further also by including sports stadiums, which is a very radical idea."

But supporters say the measure is about allowing people who legally have concealed weapons to carry the firearms into restaurants that happen to serve alcohol, instead of leaving them behind in a vehicle.

"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 & Emma's while armed, they commit a crime," said Jeff Garvas, the president of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, in a opinion article published last month in numerous local publications.

"The only difference between the lawful and criminal act is the presence of a liquor license at a particular restaurant," he said. "That's the simple problem that 'restaurant carry' legislation is designed to fix."

Ohio is among nine states that generally prohibit firearms where alcohol is served and consumed, according to the Legal Community Against Violence, a national public interest law center aimed at preventing gun violence. Eight states allow guns in bars and restaurants, and a dozen states prohibit guns in bars but allow them in at least limited parts of restaurants. The remaining 21 states allow guns in places that serve alcohol.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman is urging Kasich to veto the measure.

"As a member of Congress, Gov. Kasich compiled a strong record of standing up to the powerful gun lobby," Coleman said in a statement. "We ask him to do so again today. Gov. Kasich has an opportunity to stand with the overwhelming majority of Ohioans, including police officers, prosecutors, restaurant owners and even gun owners, by vetoing this legislation."

If Kasich signs the bill, state law would no longer prohibit people from carrying their concealed firearms into roughly 17,000 facilities where alcohol is served and consumed, as long as they don't drink. It also would allow a person with the proper permit to have a loaded handgun in a vehicle even if the gun is not secured in a holster or other specified container, as long as the person isn't violating other legal restrictions.

Among the facilities that would be affected are restaurants, bars, sports stadiums, nightclubs, shopping malls and museums. University sports venues apparently would not be affected because properties owned or leased by colleges are among the places where Ohio law generally bans concealed firearms. Such weapons also are prohibited at many government facilities, school areas and places of worship.

Establishments that want to prohibit firearms can still take advantage of the existing law that lets privately owned or leased venues do so. For example, the facilities that are home to Ohio's major professional sports teams plan to continue to ban weapons, for safety reasons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.