Bills would allow Ohio citizens to carry guns in restaurants and restore gun owner rights

Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA) is delighted to report that the Senate Criminal Justice Committee today passed two vital bills.

SB239 would allow citizens who hold a valid concealed handgun license (CHL) to carry a firearm in restaurants. To do so, license holders may not consume any alcohol and must not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The bill also seeks to reduce burdensome restrictions on how a license holder must transport a firearm in a car. Currently, Ohio is the only state to place such complex limitations on license holders.

SB247 would align Ohio law with federal statutes regarding the restoration of rights to Ohio firearms purchasers. Due to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has stopped accepting Ohio's court orders restoring a citizen's right to own firearms. This bill would update Ohio's statutes to address this issue and protect Ohio citizens' legal rights under the law.

Both bills will head to the full Senate on Thursday, May 27, and if passed will move to the Ohio House.

Ken Hanson, Legislative Chair of Buckeye Firearms Association, said, "These bills address three important issues facing Ohio gun owners and concealed carry license holders and seek to align Ohio law with federal law and the laws of our surrounding states."

HB239 - Voting "Yes" in committee:
Tim Grendell (R-18), Chair
Jim Hughes (R-16)
Keith Faber (R-12)
Bill Harris (R-19)*
Joe Schiavoni (D-33)
Bill Seitz (R-8)

HB239 - Voting "No" in committee:
Shirley Smith (D-21)
Nina Turner (D-25)

HB247 - Voting "Yes" in committee:
Tim Grendell (R-18), Chair
Keith Faber (R-12)
Bill Harris (R-19)*
Joe Schiavoni (D-33)
Bill Seitz (R-8)

HB247 - Voting "No" in committee:
Jim Hughes (R-16)
Shirley Smith (D-21)
Nina Turner (D-25)

* Sen. David Goodman (R-3) and Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R-27) were absent, so Senate President Harris sat on the committee and cast a vote.

Results of Thursday's vote in the full Senate will be announced as they come in.

Media Coverage:
The Columbus Dispatch - Bill expanding Ohio's concealed-carry law advances in Senate

Cleveland police detective Stephen Loomis didn't mince words in blasting a legislative proposal that would allow holders of concealed-carry permits to take guns into bars, sporting events and restaurants that sell alcohol.

"I have spent a career dealing with problems in bars, nightclubs, entertainment-district restaurants and men's clubs, and I can tell you without doubt or hesitation the introduction of firearms ... will result in the senseless loss of human life," Loomis told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice today.

"We're going to go from bar fights with bottles and fists to someone who pulls a gun and starts shooting the place up."

Despite Loomis' strong objections -- and those of numerous other law-enforcement groups -- the Republican-

controlled committee passed the bill 6-2, setting the stage for a vote by the full Senate.

The votes weren't easy, however. The committee led by Sen. Tim Grendell, R-Chesterland, met in the morning, then recessed for several hours, and resumed about 6 p.m. after a lengthy Senate session. Grendell immediately realized that he did not have the five Republican votes he needed to vote the bill out of committee. That set off a frantic search for Republican senators.

The solution: Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, was pressed into duty for five minutes. Voting in place of absent Sen. David Goodman, R-New Albany, Harris cast the key ballot with his colleagues.

Harris said he is not overly concerned that law enforcement is largely against the measure. "There is enough law enforcement in support that we feel comfortable passing the bill," he said.

Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, joined a parade of law-enforcement representatives who testified against Senate Bill 239. It would allow concealed guns in facilities that serve alcohol as long as the permit holder isn't drinking. It would also remove the requirement that guns in a motor vehicle must be kept out of sight.

Loomis pointedly told committee members that he felt betrayed by the move to loosen the concealed-carry law that his union and others reluctantly supported when it was enacted in 2004. "This is not what we signed up for," Loomis said.

Grendell shot back: "Nobody promised you the concealed-carry law would go forever without being changed."

The state's concealed-carry law prohibits permit holders from taking guns into bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol.

The bill has strong support from Ohioans for Concealed Carry, the National Rifle Association and other firearms groups.

Mark Drum of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio said police are concerned that permit holders might begin using "quick-draw" holsters that attach to the interior of a vehicle, leave a gun on the dashboard, or even start "twirling" them in their hands.

In bars, the idea of a "designated driver" would be replaced by a "designated shooter," Drum said.

Representatives of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association also testified against the guns-in-bars provisions of the bill.

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