Guest editorials offer island of truth in a sea of misinformation and lies about Ohio Restaurant Carry legislation

by Jim Irvine & Chad D. Baus

After the Ohio Senate passed its version of Restaurant & Car Carry Rules Fix legislation, SB17, Ohio's newspapers quickly carpet-bombed their readers with slanted, misleading and out-right false articles and editorials about the issue. ("The sky is falling!")

Despite their efforts, the Ohio House passed its own version of the important legislation, HB45. The anti-gun rights media subjected their skeptical readers to reruns of their editorials and biased articles. ("No, really, the sky is REALLY falling!")

To date, we are aware of just one newspaper in the entire state - The Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune - that has published an editorial in support of passage of Restaurant Carry legislation in Ohio, entitled "Don't buy into the Wild West mythology".

Several other Ohio newspapers have now at least presented their readers with an alternative viewpoint, via guest editorials.

Both The Athens News and Ohio University's The Post have published a guest editorial entitled "Opposition to concealed-carry bill uses false arguments", written by Thomas Stierhoff:

There has been a lot of talk about H.B. 45 lately, which would allow concealed-carry permit holders in Ohio to legally carry their firearms inside restaurants, bars or open-air arenas that serve alcohol, as long as they did not consume alcohol. I felt obligated to clear up some of the misleading arguments of the opponents of this bill.

Some opponents of H.B. 45 claim that if this bill is passed, concealed-carry permit holders will drink alcohol, and shootouts will become commonplace. It is unfair to discriminate against a group of people and predict how they will react, especially without anything to back up their argument. There are two main points this article will discuss. The first will take a look at the typical concealed-carry permit holder.

Currently, Ohio has nearly 200,000 concealed-carry permit holders. These people are living their lives just as anybody else does. It's likely that you've stood behind them at a checkout line at a store or sat beside them at a movie theater. But what do we really know about them? Well, for starters, anyone with a concealed-carry permit license has a clean police record. This means no violent misdemeanors, no felonies, no drug offenses, and they have passed a background check. According to the book "Gun Rights," a study done in Texas showed that people with concealed-carry permits are 5.7 times less likely to be arrested for violent offenses than the general public and 13.5 times less likely to be arrested for non-violent offenses. Statistically, concealed-carry permit holders are more likely to obey laws than the general public.

If criminals wish to carry in a Class D liquor establishment, then they will. Criminals have no intention to obey laws; that's what makes them criminals. Murder and robbery are both against the law, and yet both still happen because criminals do not obey the laws. If concealed-carry permit holders consumed alcohol while carrying a firearm, they would lose their license to carry and would face felony charges. Anyone with a felony charge cannot buy or possess a firearm. Licensed conceal-carry permit holders, who spent the time and money to obtain their license, would think twice before jeopardizing their license or their right to own a firearm.

It is a rare occurrence for concealed-carry permit holders to lose their licenses. According to the Ohio Attorney General, from the years 2006-2010, only 0.62 percent of all concealed-carry permit holders had their licenses revoked. These statistics include people who died, moved out of state, decided not to renew their license, or committed a crime.

My second point will examine the laws of other states. Believe it or not, Ohio is not the first state to try to pass a bill to allow a concealed-carry permit holder to carry inside a restaurant that serves alcohol. In fact, 42 other states have laws that allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry inside restaurants that serve alcohol, including every state that borders Ohio. None of these states has problems with concealed-carry permit holders drinking and getting into shootouts, and none of these states is planning on repealing its law.

The greatest flaw of the arguments against H.B. 45 is that its opponents have little or no statistics to back up their claims. All they have is their slogan, "guns and alcohol don't mix." I agree with this statement 100 percent. It is taught in every concealed-carry class that any concealed-carry permit holder must pass for their license. The purpose of H.B. 45 is not to mix alcohol and guns; it merely allows concealed-carry permit holders to legally carry their firearm into restaurants like an Applebee's or Chili's.

Under current Ohio laws, a concealed-carry permit holder can legally purchase alcohol at any gas station or liquor store, while they are carrying a firearm. They are also allowed to carry it in an establishment that serves only beer. The concealed-carry permit holder understands that they are not to drink until they are no longer carrying their firearm. How is this different from them going into any Class D liquor establishment?

I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment. I believe that any law-abiding citizens should be allowed to carry a firearm for protection in every store, every restaurant, and every bar. H.B. 45 is a step in the right direction.

In The Post, Stierhoff is identified as a member of the Ohio University Second Amendment Club. It is sad indeed when a college student is more capable of evaluating this legislation with logic and reason than are many elected officials in Columbus, and the vast majority of Ohio's journalists.

Several other Ohio newspapers have also published a guest editorial, this time from Ohioans For Concealed Carry's Jeff Garvas, entitled "Police fear-mongering at heart of Ohio's restaurant-carry debate":

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 Fraternal Order of Police 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, the FOP's current president falls back on the standard "we have more training" red herring. These officers also have FOP lodges with Class D liquor permits.

Contradicting its catch phrase, 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, the FOP's 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.

[Editor's Note - A correction published on OFCC's website notes that Garvas "incorrectly stated that the penalty for being under the influence of alcohol in Ohio is increased to a felony. That is a mistake - consumption of alcohol in a Class D establshment while armed becomes a felony - the point of the editorial isn't changed, but the fact is that we over stated the change."]

56 Ohio Representatives and 25 Ohio Senators deserve our gratitude for voting in favor of HB45 and SB17.

Despite being bombarded by newspaper editorials making false claims, and despite having to sit through an hours of heated discussion about the terrible repercussions of this legislation given in committees and floor testimony, they looked passed the rhetoric. They voted for common sense, freedom and personal safety.

In reading all of the media coverage about this legislation, we are reminded of the dire warnings of "blood in the streets" when concealed carry passed more than seven years ago. The nightmare scenarios never happened. Opponents were wrong then and they are wrong now. Time will prove that legislators' support for HB45/ SB17 was well-founded.

HB45/ SB17 makes it easier for good people to follow the law and makes it harder for criminals to steal guns. The votes should have been unanimous.

Buckeye Firearms Association has urged the Republican leaders in the House and Senate to expedite final passage of Restaurant Carry legislation, and to send it to Governor Kasich before the summer recess, and we are encouraged by Speaker Batchelder's recent assurance that this will in fact happen.

Jim Irvine and Chad D. Baus are the Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman and Vice Chairman, respectively.

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