Buckeye Firearms Association's Linda Walker testifies in favor of HB203

Earlier today, Buckeye Firearms Association Central Ohio Chair Linda Walker offered proponent testimony on HB203, which seeks to "allow a concealed carry licensee who is not consuming liquor and is not under the influence to carry a concealed handgun in a retail food establishment or food service operation with any class liquor permit issued for the location" before the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Following is the testimony offered on behalf of Buckeye Firearms Association:

Good afternoon Chairwoman Bolon and Representatives. I am Linda Walker from Alexandria, in Licking County. I am the Central Ohio Chair of Buckeye Firearms Association and my testimony is given on behalf of Buckeye Firearms Association.

  • August 13, 2008, Warren, Ohio, Freddie's Diner and Sons of Italy Lodge

    89 year old Fred DeVengencie was shot and killed when a robber entered through the side kitchen door. 71 year old Anthony DeVengencie was critically wounded when shot in the face and hand by the robber.

  • October 8, 2006, Worthington, Ohio, Bucca Di Beppo Restaurant
  • An employee was taking the trash out when Marcus Cobb grabbed him from behind and forced him back into the restaurant. Cobb forced additional employees to the manager's office, where Cobb gained access to the safe. Cobb threatened to "start shooting" if the safe was not emptied in 30 seconds.

  • October 12, 2009, Lancaster, Ohio, Rooster's Restaurant
  • A male suspect walked into the restaurant manager's office with a handgun and demanded cash.

  • December 15, 2008, Mansfield, Ohio, Mansfield Domino's

    Two men wearing ski masks enter the restaurant, force the manager at gunpoint to clean out the cash register and safe, forced him into the freezer and shot him four times, before locking the freezer.

  • December 17, 2008, Columbus, Ohio, Buffalo Rings & Wings
  • Two masked armed men burst into the restaurant, took money from the cash drawers that the manager was counting, forced three employees at gun point into a small back room.

  • July 1, 2009, Columbus, Ohio, Max & Erma's

    As of July 6, the same robber who had held up Max & Erma's, had held up 13 other establishments at gun point, including additional restaurants, gas stations, coffee shops and drug stores. The suspect would produce a shotgun and demand money while holding the victims at gunpoint.

  • December 7, 2008, Grove City, Ohio, Applebee's

    Two armed suspects enter the restaurant and took patrons and employees hostage. The suspects forced the people to the back of the restaurant and into a walk-in cooler. One of the suspects forced the manager to open the safe inside the locked office. Suspects were indicted on one charge of aggravated robbery and 19 counts of kidnapping.

Members of the committee, these are just a few examples of armed takeovers of Ohio restaurants in just the past recent years. An 89 year-old man died and his 71 year old son was critically injured because, per our law, they did not have the right to defend themselves. Nineteen people were herded into a walk-in cooler while enjoying dinner with their families, because Ohio law stripped them of their right to self defense. Time and time again, people have had been held up in restaurants and could do nothing to defend themselves.

What is the common thread to all of these restaurants? That thread is they all hold a liquor license.

I can go to Bob Evans with my family, order a cheeseburger, fries and a shake, and be in full compliance of the law while carrying my firearm. Yet if I go across the street to Applebee's with my family, order a cheeseburger, fries and a shake while carrying my firearm, I am now a criminal. I ask, is there a difference between Bob Evans, where I can legally carry my firearm and Applebee's where I am banned from carrying my firearm if I am not drinking? The delusion remains that evil will happen at Applebee's should I dare to carry my firearm across their threshold because Applebee's serves adult beverages.

Law-abiding citizens of Ohio who hold a concealed handgun license are not asking to drink alcohol at that Applebee's or other establishments while carrying our firearms. We are asking that we have the right to protect ourselves and our loved ones while we dine. We are asking that trust be placed upon us, as it has been with citizens of 42 other states that have restaurant carry. Ohioans are no less trustworthy than any of the citizens of 42 other states.

Those who are in doubt, and who will ask "well, what if that person who is carrying a firearm decides to have a few beers?" And my answer will be "what was illegal before is still illegal." The original Ohio concealed carry law states that a person who is carrying a firearm may not, at anytime while carrying that firearm, be under the influence. If that person chooses to indulge, they have chosen to break the law. We are not asking for that part of the law to be changed.

October 16, 1991, Luby's Restaurant, Killeen, Texas: Suzanna Gratia Hupp was enjoying lunch with her parents Al and Ursula Gratia at Luby's Restaurant. George Hennard drove his pickup truck through the front window of Luby’s Restaurant and came out shooting. Al Gratia was gunned down when he tried to subdue the suspect. Suzanna ran to escape, thinking that her mother was behind her. When she turned to look for her mother, her mother was cradling her dead father in her arms. Her mother was executed while holding her 71 year-old dead husband in her arms.

Hennard killed 23 people that day and wounded 20 others before committing suicide. This was the worst massacre in the history of United States prior to VA Tech. Suzanna Gratia Hupp had brought her handgun with her that day, but left it in her vehicle because laws at that time forbid her to carry her firearm. Suzanna Hupp many times has stated that she regrets having followed the law that day. Had she or others been allowed to carry their firearms, would there have been 43 people injured or dead that horrible day in 1991?

I ask each of you, the members of this committee, please don't allow Luby's Restaurant to repeat itself in Ohio. It could have very easily turned into a Luby's that December night just one year ago when 19 people were herded into a cooler at Applebee's.

Myself and the other 169,000 concealed handgun licensees have passed our background checks, we've proven ourselves to be upstanding citizens, we will prove ourselves again when you pass HB203.

On behalf of Buckeye Firearms Association, I thank you for your consideration. I would be happy to take any questions at this time.

Also testifying in support of the legislation were several leaders from Ohioans For Concealed Carry, as well as Nikki Goeser, a Tennessee concealed carry license-holder who was rendered defenseless by state law when she entered a sports bar on night in early 2009, and could do nothing but watch as a man who had been stalking her murdered her husband.

For more information on HB203, see: Reps. Danny Bubp & Jarrod Martin introduce HB203: Restaurant Carry.

For a complete list of legislation which we are tracking in the 128th General Assembly, visit the Buckeye Firearms Association Legislation Guide.

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