COLUMBUS (Reuters) - The Ohio House of Representatives approved two bills on Wednesday that would give Ohioans more rights to carry concealed weapons, including one that allows people to carry a gun into a bar.
The latter bill allows Ohioans who have a concealed-carry permit to carry a gun into a bar, restaurant or "open air arena" such as a sports stadium that serves alcohol. The bill prohibits the person carrying the gun from drinking alcohol at the same time.
Republican Representative Danny Bubp, a sponsor of the legislation, said the bill is necessary to make sure law abiding citizens have equal footing with criminals.
"You can't always count on law enforcement to be there to protect you," Bubp said. "You have to be able to protect yourself."
The second gun bill allows Ohioans who have been convicted of misdemeanor drug offenses to carry a gun.
Current Ohio law prevents people convicted of a misdemeanor involving drugs from carrying a concealed gun.
That means some Ohioans who've committed such a crime in the past sometimes cannot get jobs in fields that require them to carry a firearm, proponents argued.
Most Democrats, the House minority, supported the bill, which now goes to the Senate for approval.
The bar legislation was more contentious and passed along party lines, with most Republicans favoring it.
The bill includes a provision that allows business owners to put up a sign saying patrons are not allowed to carry a weapon into that bar or restaurant.
Among the Republicans who objected to the bill was Rep. Todd McKenney, who said bar owners and police didn't like it.
"These are the guys with the baseball bats behind the bars, with the sheriff on speed dial, and they say 'We don't want this,'" McKenney said.
The House passed the bill by a margin of 56 to 39. The Ohio Senate has already passed a nearly identical bill.
Writing and reporting by Jo Ingles; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Peter Bohan