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Jim Irvine, the gun-toting president of the Buckeye Firearms Association in Ohio, is looking forward to summertime. He likes South Carolina’s beaches, but his family skipped out on vacationing here last year because of what he called the “screwy laws” in our state. Those laws, however, are expected to change soon — and for the better, in his opinion. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley is set to sign a new law allowing concealed weapons permit holders to bring loaded weapons into bars and restaurants. It's similar to a law that went into affect in Ohio three years ago. “Now that I know this, I’m going to put South Carolina back on our list,” Irvine says.

Because of the new law, the front door of your favorite South Carolina eatery or watering hole might look a little different the next time you drop by. The law allows anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry inside a business that serves alcohol as long as there isn’t a sign saying they can’t — and as long as they don’t drink. It also eliminates the mandatory eight-hours of training to receive a permit, among other provisions. Bar and restaurant owners across the state have essentially been picking sides: post a sign and potentially piss off gun owners, or don’t and potentially alienate patrons who would rather not eat or drink among people carrying guns.
While a similar debate in the hospitality world played out in Ohio shortly before and after the law passed, these days it doesn’t really come up much.

Toby Hoover, who runs the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, says specific instances of violence involving firearms and places that serve alcohol are hard to track. “There certainly have been a number of incidents, but it doesn’t always zero right in on the fact that they had a permit to carry,” she says. “I mean the fact that they were at a bar and they went out in their car and got a gun could have been somebody with a permit.”
She says, however, that the new law did change the culture of her state. “It’s changing how we live because we’re just assuming and accepting that everybody can carry a gun everywhere,” she says. “And adding guns to a lot of different anger situations is not a good idea.”

That said, Hoover admits that she often meets bartenders who don’t even know about the 2011 law. When that happens she usually offers them a no guns allowed sign. “They usually just go put it up,” she says.
Irvine tells a different story of his state's landscape in the wake of Ohio Senate Bill 17. “I’ll tell you, before the law passed there was all this screaming and crying that there was going to be blood in the streets, that there were going to be shootouts in the bars, that fistfights were going to turn into gun fights every Friday night. I mean, the world was going to come to an end up here,” he says. “And here we are a year and a half later and I can tell you nothing has changed.”

Like in South Carolina, Ohio bars and restaurant operators can choose to post a sign prohibiting concealed carry. Matthew MacLaren, president and CEO of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, says he can’t recall any big issues about the law since it became the norm “It’s a business decision,” he says. “You have some patrons that appreciate no guns allowed and others that would rather see guns allowed.”

Read more: Guns in bars: Because what the Lowcountry needs is more people from Ohio | Features | Charleston City Paper
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