By Jonathan J. Cooper
Published: Monday, July 13, 2009 8:12 p.m. MDT
PHOENIX — Arizonans with concealed weapons permits will be allowed to take a handgun into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Jan Brewer.
The measure, backed by the National Rifle Association, will require bar and restaurant owners who want to ban weapons on the premises to post a no-guns sign next to the business’ liquor license.
Drinking while carrying a weapon would be illegal.
Before a compromise reached late in the Legislature’s regular session, the measure pitted powerful groups representing gun and bar owners against each other.
Opponents have said mixing guns and alcohol produces a dangerous combination that could cause violence. Supporters said people should be able to protect themselves at businesses that serve alcohol. Supporters also said it was risky to leave guns in parked vehicles.
The bill originally only applied to establishments with kitchens, but it was expanded to include bars. Another change was to move the location for posting a no-guns notice, which originally was to have been next to the main entrance. Some bar owners had worried about uncertainty over which entrance would be considered the main entrance.
A lobbyist for the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, which opposed the original bill, said the amended version created clear, uniform and enforceable rules.
“It’s going to happen one way or another, and this was the best version we’ve seen,” ALBA lobbyist Don Isaacson said after the bill was revised last month.
It’s already legal to carry a gun into a store that sells alcohol for consumption elsewhere.
It would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 to carry a gun into an establishment with a no-guns notice posted.
The law, however, includes a partial legal defense for a person carrying a concealed weapon within an establishment banning guns. It would apply if the sign had fallen down, the person wasn’t an Arizona resident and the notice was first posted less than a month earlier.