- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A bill to allow concealed deadly weapons in Kentucky bars has passed its first committee hearing in the Legislature.

The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee approved the measure Tuesday. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. John Schickel of Union, is the committee’s chairman.

Current state law prohibits concealed firearms from being carried into bars, but Schickel’s bill would allow it as long as those who carry them do not drink. He called that a matter of self-defense.

Schickel said current law allows people to openly carry visible weapons into bars at the proprietor’s discretion. Schickel also said his bill would not interfere with a bar owner’s right to prohibit guns at an establishment. He said that 25 other states have similar gun laws.

“The bad guys can take guns in bars now, and do,” Schickel. “So it only stands to reason that a person who is not drinking, that has a concealed carry permit, be allowed to defend themselves,” he said.

When asked whether the measure might make bars more dangerous, Schickel responded: “That’s always been an argument, but the results are the complete opposite, that these establishments become safer. Every time we’ve expanded concealed carry permits, crime rates have gone down, not up.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he believes the bill has “a rational basis” and that the weapons should not be carried by “an individual who is under the influence.”

“It is moving because it has our support,” Stivers said.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said the bill would not create significant change for gun laws in Kentucky.

“Under this change in the statute, people will still not be able to bring weapons into bars as long as the bar owner chooses,” said McGarvey.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo later said the House would review the legislation, but said the exclusions in the state’s original concealed carry law “were very thought out.”

“Bars were one of them for obvious reasons,” he said.

There were no outspoken opponents of the bill during the committee hearing Tuesday.

___

The legislation is Senate Bill 60.

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