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You have probably seen the humorous themed t-shirts and hats that express the notion that Put-in-Bay is “a dinking town with a fishing/boating/sailing problem”. But after this summer’s homicide there is a more important, very serious debate that we should focus on. Do we want to have drinking and handguns mix? In an online forum on “Linked IN” run by Columbus radio station WSNY (Sunny 95) there has been serious debate the last few weeks about the Ohio law that went into effect this past September that requires businesses that serve alcohol to now allow people with permitted concealed handguns into their establishment unless they voluntarily post a “no guns” sign.

Prior to this laws passing, it was not permissible to have a handgun in an establishment that serves alcohol. Now, under this new law, permitted concealed weapons owners can go into any establishment that serves alcohol without disclosing if they are carrying a handgun. The law does state however, that these permitted people with handguns are not allowed to drink while in these bars and restaurants if they are carrying a concealed weapon.

The problem is that in an environment like ours were drinking establishments and a good time comprise a large amount of our island commerce it just may be a very tall order to expect that these tourists with concealed weapons will not be tempted or succumb to having a drink or more while here. Under this new law a restaurant or bar owner that permits concealed weapons in their establishment has no way to take action unless they, or a reliable witness (i.e. employee) actually sees that there is a concealed weapon being carried by a person who is drinking in their establishment. The new law does allow an establishment the right to voluntarily exclude weapons in their bar or restaurant if they post a sign that informs patrons that it is a “no gun” zone.

By doing this the State of Ohio leaves the decision up to the businesses whether to restrict guns in their establishment. If an establishment posts a “no gun” sign the customer is given direct knowledge about the establishment’s decision to exclude weapons thus “ensuring” the rights of a citizen to choose which establishments to patronize.

But enforcement now is more complicated. It is my understanding that under the old law any handgun owner carrying a gun, permitted to carry a concealed weapon or not, was not allowed in a bar or restaurant where alcohol was served. If the police were called to a gun related incident at a drinking establishment they had the ability to enforce the law without regards to whether the person involved had a permit to carry a concealed weapon or not.

Now, under the new law, when a call to the police is made, first the police must determine if the person indicated has a permit to carry (federal and state laws mandate a registry for all people permitted to carry a concealed weapon). Then they must perform a sobriety test before they can consider arresting or removing that person from the establishment for a violation related to the gun owners conduct. So in thinking through your position on this issue, I suggest you ask the police their opinion. Take the time and talk with those tasked with enforcing this law.

As I mentioned, bar and restaurant owner’s do have a choice, they can voluntarily post a “no gun” zone sign on the outside of their bar or restaurant. In a season as short as ours, no one wants to exclude or limit people’s personal liberties, or discourage potential patrons so this may create a dilemma for some of our island business owners. Private businesses are free to allow or restrict whatever activity they feel is appropriate in their own establishments, but I think we must embrace the fact that we are a popular summer destination for many people who imbibe to excess, some come with handguns.

We presently give tacit permission to law enforcement to use concealed weapons to better serve our community needs for public safety. But in my opinion we should not give permission, implied, tacit or otherwise, to individuals with concealed weapons in environments where alcohol is served. If you don’t agree with that point of view, if you believe the 2nd amendment’s “right to bear arms” extends to having concealed weapons in public bars and restaurants then you should continue to assert your opinion by frequenting establishments that do allow concealed weapons.

I am a supporter of the right to bear arms, but having a concealed weapon carry permit and being allowed to take that concealed handgun into bar is not in my estimation a fundamental liberty, it is a privilege. For me, the simple answer is to encourage our local business owners to post a “no gun” zone. It’s complicated, but I would prefer to assert my right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” by frequenting establishments that post “no gun” zones.

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