If you don’t want to patronize a place that serves liquor where customers can carry a gun, you should look for a sign.
No, not from above.
Probably close to eye level, with a picture of a gun and a red circle and a diagonal red slash in front.
Beginning Wednesday, anyone with a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon will be able to bring it into a bar or restaurant where beer, wine or liquor is sold. It will be up to business owners to post a “no weapons” sign if they don’t want their patrons to be armed.
The measure is one of several changes in gun laws that take effect Wednesday.
Another allows people to bring their weapons into parking lots and garages as long as they leave them in the vehicle. And a third permits someone who feels threatened to “display” to another that he or she is armed without being charged with intimidation.
The bill permitting guns in bars and restaurants caps several years of efforts by Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, to bring laws on those establishments in line with those that already exist for other kinds of businesses. Put simply, the presumption in Arizona has always been that, with certain exceptions like schools, airports and federal buildings, guns are allowed pretty much anywhere the public can go unless the property owner specifically posts a notice to the contrary.
Harper did agree to limit that right when it comes to bars and restaurants: Only those who have a CCW (concealed carry weapons) permit can legally be armed where alcohol is served. These people have undergone background checks, some training on the law and the use of deadly force and some proof they know how to handle their guns.
And anyone who is armed is not permitted to drink.
Bill Weigele, president of the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, said it’s not yet clear to him how many places will seek to continue to keep out customers who are armed.
Weigele, whose organization fought the law, said most places that are strictly bars probably will remain gun-free zones.
But Weigele said he is finding that many of the major restaurants that also serve alcoholic beverages appear more willing to let their customers keep their weapons. The key, he said, is that the new right is limited to individuals with those state-issued permits.
“Their thinking is that if someone’s going to carry (a gun) responsibly, they’ll have a permit,” Weigele said.
And everyone else?
“If they’re going to carry irresponsibly, you won’t know it anyhow because they’ve been doing it forever,” he said. Weigele said some business owners figure if customers are going to carry concealed weapons without getting the state permit — itself a violation of state law — they’re not going to worry about bringing that gun where it’s not wanted.
Steve Chucri, president of the Arizona Restaurant Association, said some of his members have shown interest in keeping their establishments gun-free. And he said that some owners who are unsure probably will post their restaurants as weapons-free zones as a matter of caution, at least for the time being.
But Chucri agreed with Weigele that, assuming there are no reported incidents, many of those restaurants eventually will forego the signs.
“When you have folks who’ve gone through the training and gotten a permit, they’re going to be more responsible,” he said.
If the situation turns out as both suspect, that will be close to what supporters of the new law had wanted in the first place.
“Maybe after I go shooting, I like to have bacon and eggs,” Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said during the debate over the bill. But he said places like Denny’s are currently off-limits to guns because they also serve beer.
“The last thing I want to do is leave a gun in my car, so when a guy steals my car he’s armed,” he said.
While bar and restaurant owners will get to opt out of the new law, that isn’t the case for another measure governing where people can drive onto private property with a loaded weapon in their vehicle.
That law, which also takes effect Wednesday, bars property owners from keeping guns out of their parking lots, even if they post signs saying guns are not allowed. That includes not only businesses but also the common parking lots of apartments and condos.
There are a few conditions. The vehicle owner must lock the car or truck. And the weapon cannot be visible from the outside. But if the gun owner complies, he or she can’t be arrested or, if an employee, disciplined or fired.
Facing strong objections from firms that work on classified projects, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, did agree to craft some narrow exceptions.
For example, if a company has a secured and gated parking lot or garage and searches every vehicle entering, then it can ban workers or patrons from leaving a gun in the vehicle. But the company also must provide “temporary and secure” firearm storage that must be “readily accessible upon entry to the premises and allow for the immediate retrieval of the firearm on exit from the premises.”
Kavanagh said people carry guns in their vehicles for all sorts of reasons, ranging from wanting to do recreational shooting before or after work to self-defense. He said the new law strikes a “reasonable accommodation” between the rights of the gun owner and the rights of the property owner.