A change in state gun laws makes it OK for people with a concealed weapons license to bring a gun into a business that serves alcohol, provided there is a restaurant section on-site as well.
The new exception went into effect at the beginning of the month with little fanfare.
Since the loophole allows for the presence of a gun that should remain out of sight, local bar/restaurant owners and law enforcement say they expect few complications from it.
In fact, many Williston restaurant owners say they weren’t aware of the change, and likely won’t do anything different in their business as a result of it.
“I wouldn’t see a problem in it,” said Jason Esperum, owner of Lucy Lu’s bar and restaurant in downtown Williston. “Until something happens of course — we’re still in North Dakota, it’s kind of the wild west here.”
Although Esperum was quick to acknowledge the explosive potential in the combination of guns and alcohol, he pointed that in a restaurant like his, where many customers are regulars, a patron pulling out a gun after having too much to drink is an unlikely scenario.
“We have a lot of local people. At any given time we pretty much know three-quarters of the people who are here,” he said, adding that it hasn’t posed a problem when licensed patrons carry guns in plain sight into his restaurant.
The state law change, which went into effect on Aug. 1, comes during a spike in North Dakota concealed carry licenses, the Associated Press reports.
About three-dozen permit applications are arriving at the Attorney General’s office every day. Applicants from the Oil Patch in western North Dakota, many of them women, account for the majority of that figure. Statewide, the number of licenses has risen from 16,000 in 2011 to nearly 39,000 today.
But despite the fact that more people are packing heat, and that they are now allowed to take their gun inside a restaurant to have a beer with their meal, local law enforcement is not expecting additional headaches.
Williston police have arrested one person in a year’s time for bringing a gun into a bar, Lt. Det. David Peterson said.
The newly edited law “won’t really affect many of our investigations,” he said. “We just are there to enforce laws and ensure the safety of our community. It will be up to the establishments to report any disorderly behavior related to firearms.”
The type of person who completes the concealed carry licensing process is not likely to be one who would pull a gun while having drinks and dinner, Capt. Verlan Kvande of the Williams County Sheriff’s Office said.
“I personally don’t think we’ll see a major increase in that type of behavior,” he said. “I think your average person who goes through all the levels and steps to get a license… won’t be a problem for us.”
Other related changes in state law made it legal to carry a Taser without a license and take a gun into public rest areas along highways. The new regulations went into effect on Aug. 1.