LIMA — As a national debate about gun rights on private property brews, companies in Lima are not immune to corporate policies or the debate.
Panera, Chipotle and other national restaurant chains have decided to ban guns in their stores, at the urging of a grassroots gun violence prevention organization, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups fight for businesses to take down their no gun signs and change policies.
Jim Yarger, owner of Yarger’s Body Shop and president of the local NRA affiliate, the Lima Sabres Shooting Association, said he feels safer in a room with people carrying weapons than in one of people without weapons.
And, though Yarger loves to eat at Panera Bread and Chipotle, he won’t anymore, as he believes a “hit in the pocketbook” could persuade restaurants to change their policies.
“If they have a sign on their door, I will refuse to give them any business,” he said, referring to businesses that don’t allow guns in their buildings. “I won’t give them my money if they’re not going to respect my right to carry concealed.”
It seems that in Lima, at least, there are policies, but no signs about them.
NO WAY TO TELL
State law says that if private establishments are going to prohibit guns, they “may” post a sign that is highly visible and spells out that firearms aren’t allowed.
Texas Roadhouse in Lima does not permit open carry but allows concealed carry everywhere except the bar area. An employee couldn’t say why they don’t have a sign posted about the policy.
Panera, with two Lima locations, recently declared its position: No guns in its restaurants. However, neither store in Lima had signs up as of Friday. An employee at the Harding Highway location said she thought they would put them up soon but couldn’t speak to it further.
Leslie Bladen, 32 of Van Wert, has a concealed carry license and said she thinks people should be able to carry in restaurants if they have a license and are well-trained.
“There are negatives and positives,” she said. “People that do break in — they’re either prepared and have someone concealing or not.”
Bladen and Chrissy Garcia, 31 of Van Wert, were eating together at Panera on Friday afternoon and agreed that if any establishments want to keep guns out, they need security measures.
“Otherwise, people can just walk in,” Garcia said.
Bladen suggested metal detectors.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is pushing for businesses to take a stand against gun violence and make policies against open carry in their establishments.
“We want to decrease gun violence in any way we can,” said Michele Mueller, Ohio chapter lead for the national group. “We are not anti-gun; we are anti-gun violence.”
Chipotle, with a Lima location on Elida Road, also recently banned guns in its stores but has no sign on display either. The local employees declined comment, and corporate contacts could not be reached last week.
SOME HAVE SIGNS
Though most corporate or chain establishments have policies but lack signs, one local bar does have a sign because “alcohol and guns don’t mix,” said Kathie Mault, owner of Marko’s Sports and Spirits in Lima.
The bar has two signs clearly posted saying that the establishment does not allow guns. Part of the reason is because people brought guns in before the rule was made, Mault said.
“It’s just safer for my customers who are in here who don’t have them,” she said. “They seem to feel a little safer.”
The bar also uses a metal-detecting wand on customers on its busiest nights, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America thinks the signs and prohibition are a good thing because of accidental firings and people being scared to see others with guns without being able to tell if they’re good or bad people, Mueller said.
“Our biggest concern is when you don’t have a law in place … you don’t know who you’re dealing with,” she said, referring to unregulated open carry in Ohio.
She said the group is okay with concealed carry because background checks are part of getting the license.
WHO IT AFFECTS
Though Yarger said he doesn’t think the signs will make a difference, he will respect them.
“The only way you’re going to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said, adding a sign wouldn’t stop someone with the intent of going in somewhere and hurting people with a gun. “All it’s going to do is affect law-abiding citizens.”
Mueller says the group, which is also trying to pressure Kroger into forbidding guns in its grocery stores, won’t give up the cause until their is a safer environment.
“If you take away the gun or the allowance of the gun, you can stop incidents from happening,” she said. “It’s just common sense to us. We don’t feel like we’re asking anything outrageous.”
Yarger said gun control is about people control.
“Why should moms against guns deny me my right to protect my family and myself?” Yarger said. “[It’s] just using this as a step to ban all firearms.”
He also doesn’t think banning guns will stop gun violence.
“Is it going to help anything? No.” Yarger said of the signs and companies prohibiting guns. “Will it make a misinformed business owner feel better? Probably.
“It’s not going to stop any crime.”