March 25, 2005
Rejecting pleas from representatives of the state’s tourism industry, the House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to let customers carry guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
The 6-3 vote also came over objections from people who own and operate some of the establishments that would be affected, as well as police, prosecutors and neighborhood groups. All told lawmakers they should not tinker with existing laws prohibiting weapons anywhere alcohol is consumed.
Thursday’s vote sends SB1363, which already has passed the Senate, to the House floor where there appears to be enough votes for approval.
Rep. Steve Yarbrough, RChandler, who voted for the measure, said he may seek to narrow its scope so patrons would be able to carry guns only into restaurants but not into bars. The difference is the amount of food they sell.
Yarbrough cited what he said is a bar in Chandler that already has a reputation for trouble. He said he is not convinced a no-drinking rule for gun-toting patrons would work.
"I rather doubt that anybody is going in there for the popcorn and the
pretzels," he said.
Any effort to limit the bill will get a fight from the National Rifle Association.
NRA lobbyist Darren LaSorte said owners can keep their businesses gun-free by posting a sign by the door saying weapons are not welcome. He noted the bill spells out that those who have a weapon are prohibited from drinking.
Michael Preston Green, lobbyist for the Arizona Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said that would be impossible to enforce. He said there is no way for a bartender to know who is carrying a gun. Green said business owners might have to install airport-type metal detectors.
LaSorte said there are legitimate reasons to let people take their guns into bars and restaurants. "These places are not immune from violence," he said.