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Monday, October 4, 2010

Annie, Get Your Gun...

Ohio Struggles With Concealed-Carry

Not long after Ohio's concealed-carry bill went into effect in 2004, many employers were having none of the legislation giving law-abiding Ohioans who met certain requirements the right that allowed them to carry concealed firearms. Exercising their private-property rights, empoyers banned employees, visitors and customers from carrying guns anywhere on their property, including parking lots. 


Ohio is not alone in concealed-carry struggles. Georgia has a gun law that lets people bring guns to work, so long as they leave them in their parked cars. Larry Levine, an executive with Brandsmart, an appliance chain in Georgia and Florida said even though he was an NRA member, he wanted guns kept away from his stores. "Our company has the right to make the rules," Levine said. "Same as in your house. You may tell people that come to visit you they are not allowed to bring a firearm in the house." (Mark Strassman, "Take Your Gun to Work? Two States Say Yes," CBS News, July 27 2008)

But now, The Columbus Dispatch reports,  "A bipartisan group of 31 members of the Ohio House - including two from Franklin County, Reps. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, and Nancy Garland, D-New Albany - wants to chip away at those gun bans that fall under private-property rights. House Bill 571, introduced last week, would forbid employers from prohibiting employees who have concealed-carry licenses from storing their handguns in locked cars on their employers' property." (Editorial: "Taking Guns To Work," September 1 2010)

The new bill is not the only firearms proposal in Ohio. Ohio Senate Bill 239 would allow people with concealed-carry licenses to take firearms into bars, restaurants and other places serving alcohol - places currently off-limits to pistol-packing patrons. The same bill also would allow license-holders to keep loaded handguns within easy reach inside cars and other motor vehicles.

Senate Bill 239 recently passed the Ohio Senate 23-10, but has stalled until after the summer recess thanks to a procedural maneuver in the House to stop a vote. Representative Danny Bubp had intended to add the language from SB 239 to another bill as an amendment but Speaker Armond Budish called a vote on the bill before the amendment could be offered. Bubp, one of the primary supporters of HB 203, a similar measure introduced in the House, predicted the amendment would have passed had it been added.
"It would have passed, no doubt in my mind," Bubp said. "If someone goes into a restaurant and gets hurt because they can't defend themselves, I'm going to be the first to say we should have done this." (Daniel White, "Restaurant Carry Stalled As House Prepares For Summer Recess,", June 14 2010)
Why the backing? The Columbus Dispatch editorial reported, "The National Rifle Association and similar groups have disproportional influence over lawmakers compared with the majority of Ohioans who support reasonable restrictions on guns but who have no powerful lobby to represent their views."

Similar laws in other states have been proposed and enacted. Lawmakers who want to receive favor from the NRA refuse to support opposition to these laws. The gun lobby seeks, state by state, to expand the realm of guns in everyday life. Legislators in both parties, afraid of being portrayed as anti-gun and anti-Second Amendment, turn a deaf ear to opposition.

Various Gun Decisions

Can we even imagine loaded guns at a sold-out Cleveland Browns/Cincinnati Bengals football game? Do we consider the effect of loaded guns being carried into family restaurants and into crowded bars? Should guns be allowed on college campuses? These are disturbing proposals.

More than 250 lawsuits now challenge various gun laws, and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican, called for guns to be made legal on campuses after a shooting last at the University of Texas, Austin, arguing that armed bystanders might have stopped the gunman. 

Malcolm Gay, ("More States Allowing Guns in Bars and Restaurants," The New York Times, October 3 2010) reported that Tennessee is one of four states, along with Arizona, Georgia and Virginia, that recently enacted laws explicitly allowing loaded guns in bars. (Eighteen other states allow weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol.)

The new measures in Tennessee and the three other states come after two landmark Supreme Court rulings that citizens have an individual right — not just in connection with a well-regulated militia — to keep a loaded handgun for home defense. The court ruled that firearms are "essential for self-defense." The court found that if the Second Amendment indeed protects an individual right to own a gun, the notion that the government can't ban all handguns is the minimum protection the Constitution can offer. (John Lott, "Court's Gun Decision an Important Win for Americans Who Want to Defend Themselves,", June 28 2010)

The new laws have also brought to light the status of 20 other states — New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts among them — that do not address the question, appearing by default to allow those with permits to carry guns into establishments that serve alcohol, according to the Legal Community Against Violence, a nonprofit group that promotes gun control and tracks state gun laws. (Malcolm Gay, "More States Allowing Guns in Bars and Restaurants," The New York Times, October 3 2010)

In July, Tennessee, despite a veto by Gov. Phil Bre­desen, passed a law that allows patrons with gun permits to carry concealed weapons into establishments that serve alcohol, although they are not allowed to drink. However, the law also gives operators the right to post signs banning guns from their establishments.

According to an investigation by The Commercial Appeal, Marc Perrusquia stated that dozens of Shelby Countians (Shelby is home to Memphis.) with violent histories have received permits to carry handguns in Tennessee. The newspaper identified as many as 70 county residents who were issued permits despite arrest histories, some with charges that include robbery, assault, domestic violence and other serious offenses. ("Armed and Dangerous: Dozens With Violent Histories Received Handgun Carry Permits," The Commercial Appeal, Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group, March 12 2009) 

One man had 25 arrests on his record when he was licensed. He is now charged with a series of bank robberies in federal court, where he's pleading insanity. Another, booked 11 times before getting licensed, held on to his gun permit after three new drug arrests and guilty pleas on two felony cocaine-dealing charges. His permit was revoked this month -- 10 months after his last conviction -- when a reporter asked about his status.

Statistically, such cases are anomalies. More than 32,000 Shelby County residents have permits, licenses that allow them to travel or walk about with a handgun. Perrusquia reported, "Yet the newspaper found that mistakes, a state law that gives authorities little flexibility to weed out questionable applicants and limited government resources combine to allow a collection of rogues to go legally armed."

In a complaint filed recently with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA), a Nashville food server (not named) said that allowing patrons to carry guns in places that serve alcohol is dangerous for workers and asks TOSHA to address that safety concern. According to the complaint, the food server had seen gun-toting restaurant patrons forcibly ejected from the premises, which presumably meant that the patrons were seriously misbehaving but would not leave when asked. The Metro police say that the bar where the unnamed complainant works has been the site of nine incidents involving fights or drunk and disorderly behavior in the past 22 months. Is it any wonder the poor man has such an occupational concern? (Weapon Offenses,, September 7 2010)

In Virginia, the General Assembly approved a bill that allows people to carry concealed weapons in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and the House of Delegates voted to repeal a 17-year-old ban on buying more than one handgun a month. The actions came less than three years after the shootings at Virginia Tech that claimed 33 lives and prompted a major national push for increased gun control.

Ian Urbina reported, "Virginia is also considering a measure adopted in Montana and Tennessee that declares that firearms made and retained in-state are beyond the authority of Congress. The measure is primarily a challenge to Congress's power to regulate commerce among the states." ("Obama Is a Democrat Presient So Gun Laws Have Tightened, Right? Wrong!" The New York Times, February 23 2010)

And, Guns In Church -- Amen?

And then the next obvious legislation -- Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) signed into law a bill that extends conceal-and-carry laws to places of worship. Under the new law, if a church, synagogue, or mosque decides to allow weapons, then guns can be brought on the premises. Standard conceal and carry licensing applies, as well as 8 hours of training held by the Church (or synagogue or mosque...). The goal is to allow the church to bring in armed “forces” to protect worshipers from violence, particularly in more dangerous neighborhoods.

Brian Montopoli said, "The bill does not allow people to simply walk into a church packing heat, however. According to the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, individuals must pass a background check and undergo eight hours of training per year if they want to bring weapons to houses of worship; the idea seems to be that they would serve something like a de facto security force." ("Guns in Church? Jindal Signs Louisiana Bill into Law," CBS News, July 8 2010)

In addition, the head of the religious institution - be it a church, synagogue, mosque or anything else - must announce to congregants that the weapons are being wielded for security purposes.

Hunter Thompson, American author and journalist, once said, "America...just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable." And, isn't the "personal comfort level" what the gun control issue is essentially all about? Yet, a bullet for our enemies, for our tormentors, or for our limited perceptions does not always strike the heart of a problem. Used to save a life, a gun may be a Godsend, but strapping on a pistol to enter work, a bar, or a place of worship seems absurd. Steven Stills rings in my mind: "Love the one you're with."

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