Guns in Bars: Arizona Opens the Door - FindLaw Blotter
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Guns in Bars: Arizona Opens the Door

While we wait for the Supreme Court to decide the extent to which cities and states can regulate guns, as of yesterday, Arizona allows concealed weapons in bars.

As reported by the Arizona Republic, those with concealed weapons permits in Arizona may now take their guns into Arizona bars and other establishments licensed to sell alcohol, unless the bar has posted adequate signage forbidding guns. Gun toters are not allowed to consume alcohol while in the bars, however.

The new law will not apply to those openly carrying their guns (which is largely legal in Arizona). Open carriers must still leave their guns outside the bar.

Even in bars banning guns, the law will protect those charged with illegally packing heat if:

  • the person has not been informed of the bar's policy,
  • the person is from out of state,
  • the bar's sign has fallen down, or
  • the bar's sign hasn't been up for at least 30 days.

While many news reports have stated that 40 states have similar laws, this is a contested (and misleading) number. State laws actually vary widely. Most states treat guns differently in restaurants, restaurants that serve alcohol and bars. Some allow guns in restaurants but not bars. Other states ban guns from establishment making more than a certain percentage of revenue from alcohol.

While a growing number of states allow guns in restaurants serving alcohol, almost all of these laws distinguish between the different types of establishments, and relatively few allow guns in straight up bars, saloons or nightclubs.

According to research conducted by those who unsuccessfully opposed a Tennessee guns in bars law this summer, 23 states expressly prohibit guns in bars, saloons, nightclubs and restaurant bar areas.

Regardless of what's going on in other states, some bar owners in Arizona are reportedly concerned about mixing guns and booze. MSNBC quoted the owner of Shady's, a neighborhood bar, who said, "[s]omebody can pull the trigger, then a bullet comes out, and people get hurt and killed. ... The idea of anyone coming in with guns in a place that serves alcohol just seems ludicrous."

Business owners may also be concerned about potential premises liability claims for firearm related incidents within their establishments.

According to Arizona Senator Jack Harper, the sponsor of the bill which now has become law, however, the law will put fear into criminals, who will think twice about running amok in a bar where people might be legally packing heat. According to Harper, "[i]t's very important that criminals are now afraid rather than law abiding citizens."

The Arizona Republic reports that the state has around 5,300 establishments licensed to sell alcohol. Arizona made signs prohibiting guns available online for printing by bar owners. In addition, the state has reportedly issued about 1,000 official laminated signs since beginning to offer them in mid-August (with an average bar requesting 4 signs). However, the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control can no longer afford to mail such signs to bar owners who want them.

According to the Republic, there are over 138,000 Arizonans licensed to carry concealed weapons.

Though it's drawn fewer headlines, Arizona's new laws also now allow licensed holders of concealed weapons to keep loaded guns in locked cars parked at work (despite any private employer's or parking lot owner's rules) or on state college campuses.