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Legislature passes guns-in-restaurants bill on final day of session

Lawmakers approved two measures on the final days of this year’s session that aim to allow gun owners to carry firearms in restaurants and bars and to store firearms in vehicles parked on private lots.

The Senate voted, 19 to 8, on July 1 to pass S1113, which would allow people with carry-concealed weapons permits to bring firearms into restaurants and other establishments that sell alcohol. It also would require restaurant owners who don’t want guns on their property to post a sign stating that firearms are prohibited.

The House passed the bill, 40 to 19, on June 30.

“The main goal is to make sure that there are not defense-free zones,” said Sen. Jack Harper, the bill’s sponsor. “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.”

Consuming alcohol while in a possession of a firearm would be a class 3 misdemeanor under the guns-in-restaurants legislation.

When it came out of the Senate, the bill made a distinction between establishments that have a kitchen, allowing only handguns in those premises that have a kitchen and where food is sold.

The House amended the Senate bill to expand the list of premises where guns would be permitted to include bars as well as restaurants. The House also amended the measure to establish “strict liability” for possessing a firearm while on the licensed premises of an on-sale retailer.

A few days earlier, lawmakers had passed S1168, which would ban property owners from prohibiting the storage of firearms in locked vehicles parked on their lot.

More specifically, the bill prohibits a property owner, tenant, public or private employer, and business entity from establishing and enforcing a policy that prohibits a person from lawfully transporting or storing a firearm that is in the person’s locked car or in his or her motorcycle’s locked compartment.

The National Rifle Association supported both bills.

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