COLUMBUS -- Guns could be taken into bars and alcohol-serving restaurants, and oil and natural gas rigs could be installed in state parks under a pair of bills signed behind closed doors by Gov. John Kasich Thursday.
Both will take effect in 90 days.
While a number of states allow concealed handguns in restaurants, Ohio has now gone a step further than most in adding bars and other places that serve alcohol such as arenas, stadiums, and reception halls.
More than 200,000 Ohioans have permits to carry concealed firearms.
"While this section is by necessity more liberal than many other states, Ohio is more strict than most in placing a strict prohibition on consumption by the license holder, something most states do not do," said Ken Hanson, legislative chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association.
Business owners still have the right under Ohio's concealed-carry law to post signs making their businesses off limits to guns.
Present during the private bill-signing ceremony was Nikki Goeser of Tennessee, whose husband was killed in front of her in a restaurant by a stalker while her gun was locked in her car because of that state's law forbidding guns in restaurants that serve alcohol.
Senate Bill 17 allows a concealed-carry permit holder to take his gun into such an establishment as long as he doesn't drink while there or isn't already under the influence.
A violation of this would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
The bill also lifts a restriction in Ohio's law that required a legally carried, loaded handgun to be secured in a holster on the permit-holder, in the glove compartment, or in some other closed container kept in plain sight when the gun is transported in a motor vehicle.
It would also allow for the expungement of a criminal record for someone who violated that portion of the law in the past.
Mr. Kasich also signed separate legislation that brings Ohio's more restrictive gun laws in line with federal law and U.S. Supreme Court rulings. This would allow those convicted of certain minor felonies to get permits to carry.
After years of resistance, Ohio first authorized the carrying of concealed firearms in 2004 but attached a long list of restrictions on where and how guns could be carried.
Gun-rights supporters have since whittled away at those restrictions.
Toby Hoover, Toledo's director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said the pro-gun lobby is already preparing its next step.
"It's already been introduced with the [John] Adams bill, the one where [a person] can carry into a church, on campus, day cares," Ms. Hoover said.
"There is no answer for them except one: I can carry my weapon where I please. That was their intent when they passed the law, and they've been eroding it every year."
Mr. Kasich may have scored some points with the National Rifle Association with his signature on the bills.
The organization endorsed Mr. Kasich's opponent, incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, in last year's election.
House Bill 133 authorizes drilling for oil and natural gas in state parks, forests, and other state-owned lands, including public universities and colleges. Supporters cited the opportunity for Ohio to raise money from drilling leases that could be put back into parks to address a roughly $500 million backlog in improvements and maintenance.
Opponents, however, argued that drilling would interrupt the park experience and violate the promise made to Ohioans that such lands would be preserved and set aside for future generations.
They also protested removal of language from the bill that would have exempted Lake Erie from drilling, creating a state barrier in the event the federal government should someday lift its own ban on lake drilling.
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