Four months later: Columbus Dispatch writes more about restaurant carry fears instead of facts established since law took effect

by Chad D. Baus

On January 23, 2012 The Columbus Dispatch published an article by reporter Dean Narciso, entitled "Guns not welcome in some bars, restaurants." While filled with speculation on the terrible things that opponents still predict will happen under Ohio's restaurant carry law, the article is curiously absent of any recognition of the fact that the law has already been in place for four months, and that none of those predictions have come to pass.

From the article:

While gun owners hail a new state law that allows them to carry firearms into restaurants and bars, as long as they don't consume alcohol, some business owners feel that they're losing their right to a weapon-free zone.

In response to Senate Bill 17, some businesses are using signs and door stickers — "Do Not Patronize if Armed" — to turn away gun-toters.

Jake's Restaurant in Mount Vernon put up its sign in the fall, a few weeks after the law took effect in August. It reads: "All weapons including concealed firearms are prohibited on these premises."

"We felt the need to say, 'Hey, we still don't see the need to bring weapons in,'" said Amy Baldner, general manager.

"We just want people feeling comfortable bringing their families here," Baldner said. "A restaurant with alcohol in it is just not the place for guns."

..."I'm a bar that serves food," said Kim Rowe, the owner of Final Score Sports Pub in Delaware. "Ninety-five percent of the people who walk in here are going to drink."

Allowing guns is "a recipe for disaster," she said. "There's a reason they didn't allow it in the first place."

If you are having a strong sense of déjà vu, you're not alone. The entire article is written in such a way that, as I read it, I literally had to double-check the date of the article to make sure it wasn't something that had been published four months ago, when the new law first took effect.

For example, on September 30, 2011 The Dispatch published the following article by reporter Alex Stuckey:

Scott Heimlich, owner of Barcelona restaurant in German Village and vice president of the Central Ohio Restaurant Association, is concerned the new law will be difficult to enforce.

"The law says they can't consume alcohol, but will that person be honest and play by the rules and not have a drop of alcohol when they have a gun on them?" Heimlich said.

Locations that serve alcohol can post a sign barring guns on the premises, which Heimlich said he plans to do.

"Alcohol and guns do not mix in any type of setting," Heimlich said. "By inviting them into a restaurant, you're opening yourself up to issues."

...Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition against Gun Violence, said some legislators are putting too much trust in people. Establishments aren't required to be responsible for the behavior of those with concealed-carry permits, "so we have to trust" those patrons, Hoover said.

"But some of these patrons, I wouldn't put them in a category of who I ought to trust," Hoover said. "It's just sort of bizarre."

She added that putting guns in places where there is drinking or families is not a good idea.

"Most places I've talked to don't want guns," she said.

And there is a concern of increased violence, said Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police.

"We oppose guns in bars, but it's the law now and we hope that our prediction of increased violence doesn't come to pass," McDonald said.

He also is worried about enforcing the no-drinking stipulation.

"We'll have to rely on the community, if they see people drinking," he said. "The problem is the weapon is concealed so there's no way to know until something bad happens."

...Some Columbus-area restaurant owners are opposed to the law because alcohol changes people's moods.

"Alcohol is a depressant and can be mood-altering," said Elizabeth Lessner, owner of five local bars and restaurants. "We've seen people get agitated, which can cause aggression. We see so many bar fights — adding a gun to it is going to make everything worse."

That's why Lessner plans to post the "No guns allowed" sign at every one of her locations.

"I've never seen a case that warranted the use of a gun in the bar and we, in this city, are fortunate enough to have a really great police force that will be there in seconds," she said. "We want to look to them for protection."

Simply put, Narciso's January 23 article is nothing but a repeat of Stuckey's from last September. If Narciso had wanted to write something new, rather than just repeatedly advertise the fears of the law's opponents, he could have compared the claims made in Stuckey's September article to the reality experienced over the past four months. He could have pointed out that it isn't the opponents who were correct in their predictions, but rather the law's supporters, such as Buckeye Firearms Association's Linda Walker. In the September 30 article, Walker told The Dispatch that violence was not going to increase.

"People think gun violence is going to go up, there's going to be blood flowing in the streets, or people are going to be shooting people because they got angry with someone," Walker said.

"We went through this same thing when conceal-carry went into law in 2004. After people got used to it, they saw nothing was going to change."

Four months later, is is clear that it was Buckeye Firearms Association, and not the law's opponents, who made accurate predictions. But only one newspaper in the state has written that article. On October 25, The Lorain Morning Journal's Bill Delaney published an article entitled "Guns in bars cause no problems, local law officials say they have seen no real issues."

That some bar owners still have irrational fears about the law is news to no one, and Dean Narciso's article is thus a waste of space. That the wild predictions of the opponents have not come to pass, on the other hand, is definitely a story The Dispatch's readers deserve to read. Sadly, given the newspaper's history, it is highly likely they won't be given the opportunity.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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