With a Republican as governor, conservatives successfully advanced much of their non-budget agenda this year, successfully pushing for legislation that would allow guns in restaurants and bars, as well as in private parking lots.
Gov. Jan Brewer’s signatures on the two gun measures were no surprise. She had spoken favorably about Second Amendment rights during the National Rifle Association convention last May in Phoenix.
But her views on the particular pieces of gun legislation that she signed might best be illustrated by her decision to co-sponsor legislation in the mid-1990s while she served in the Senate that would have allowed people with a concealed-weapons permit to carry a gun on the premises of any establishment with a liquor license.
It’s similar to a measure that landed on her desk early this month. She signed the measure on July 13.
One of the bills signed July 13, S1113, allows those who have a concealed-weapons permit to bring a firearm into restaurants and other establishments that sell alcohol, including bars. It requires restaurant owners who don’t want guns on their property to post a sign stating that firearms are prohibited.
The legislation makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor to consume alcohol while in a possession of a gun.
“You want to make sure that when a criminal comes into an establishment to rob or do harm to innocent life, that they have to worry about armed citizens as well as the law coming four or five minutes later,” said Sen. Jack Harper, the bill’s sponsor.
Brewer also signed S1168, a measure that would ban property owners from prohibiting the storage of firearms in locked vehicles parked on their lots.
More specifically, the bill prohibits property owners, tenants, public or private employers and business entities from establishing and enforcing any policy that prohibits a person from transporting or storing a lawfully-possessed firearm that is in the person’s locked car or in a motorcycle’s locked compartment.
Although the battle over raising the sales tax rages on, the political wind has certainly favored conservatives this year. Brewer has signed measures ranging from abortion restrictions to expanding the corporate income tax credit and allowing insurance companies to donate to school tuition organizations.
Some of the measures were identified as priorities for many Republicans as early as last year when Republicans eagerly anticipated the departure of Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who routinely vetoed GOP-backed gun legislation.
With the ascension of Brewer to the Ninth Floor, the debate over allowing guns in restaurants had shifted from whether to have weapons in these establishments to how best to manage such a policy.
A handful of groups that opposed the legislation in previous years either registered a neutral or in support of the bill. The Arizona Restaurant Association was neutral on the bill. And the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association changed its position from opposition to support after successfully seeking modifications in some of the bill’s provisions.
“In 2005, I think that the restaurant people and the liquor people always knew the governor would veto the bill, and so they fought a different type of a fight,” said Todd Rathner, a legislative consultant for the National Rifle Association.
The Senate version of the bill distinguished between establishments that have a kitchen and those that do not, allowing only guns in the former. But the House adopted changes that expanded the legislation to apply to all on-sale retail establishments, which means the inclusion of bars.
“The House amended the bill in a way that I think benefits everyone,” ALBA lobbyist Don Isaacson had told the Arizona Capitol Times.
Another change established “strict liability” on the part of gun owners. “It is your responsibility to know whether the premises are posted or not,” Rathner said, explaining the change.
“But there are also exemptions in there for signs that have fallen down and there are exemptions for people that are from out of the state who come here,” he said.