A bill has cleared the Ohio Senate and House that will make changes to Ohio's Concealed Carry laws including allow permit holders to bring concealed guns into restaurants and bars.
The Republican led Ohio House voted 55-39 in favor of the change, and the Republican led Senate concurred with a vote of 25-7.
Supporters say the measure is about allowing people who legally have concealed weapons to carry the firearms into restaurants that happen to serve alcohol, instead of leaving them behind in a vehicle. Opponents say it will lead to a dangerous mix of booze and firearms.
State Sen. Jason Wilson (D- Columbiana) voted in favor of the bill, saying the measure will put Ohio in compliance with federal law regarding gun ownership rights. Wilson was the sponsor of a Senate version of the bill, SB 17.
"Good people ask for permission, bad people never do," Wilson said on the Senate floor during debate Wednesday. "I take the 2nd Amendment very seriously and I believe we need to put our state in compliance with federal law."
In the Ohio House Wednesday, a bill passed that would allow for concealed carry in restaurants and bars if the concealed carry permit holder is not consuming alcohol. Wilson also voted in favor of that bill earlier in the year.
It does not change the current law prohibiting an individual from possessing a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and establishments would still have the authority to prohibit concealed carry.
"Forty two other states, including every state bordering Ohio, has some form of allowing carrying a concealed weapon in restaurants," Wilson said. "The people who have CCW permits are almost never the problem. Why would we want to prevent good people from protecting themselves when people who are causing trouble don't care what the law says anyway?"
State Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) also voted in favor of the legislation, saying the Senate version will simplify the provisions related to the carrying of firearms in vehicles by eliminating the provisions that dictate where a gun must be stored in a vehicle, which allows law-abiding citizens to avoid accidental violations. It retains the current procedures that are followed when a licensee is pulled over and approached by a law enforcement official.
"The holders of concealed carry permits are, by definition, law-abiding citizens," said Thompson. "I trust them to exercise those rights responsibly, and this bill recognizes that trust."
Also voting for the bill was Ohio Rep. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville), who said responsible gun owners aren't the ones who are creating the problems.
"I support conceal carry and support the 2nd Amendment and think law abiding citizens who have taken the time to get their concealed carry permits are responsible owners and ought to have the ability to carry their firearm in a responsible way," Gentile said. "Not a whole lot is going to change by this and the restaurant owners and bar owners are still permitted to prohibit concealed weapons."
This legislation was originally introduced during the previous General Assembly as Senate Bill 239, which received the support of the National Rifle Association, the Buckeye Firearms Association and Ohioans for Concealed Carry.
The bill now move to Governor John Kasich who is expected to sign it into law.