Scottsdale bar and restaurant owner Les Corieri said he thinks the new law permitting the state's 137,766 carriers of concealed-weapons permits to bring firearms into bars and restaurants is insane.
He said he's been fighting against the legislation for years, adding that words can barely describe his incredulity, anger and frustration at the bill Governor Jan Brewer signed into law Monday.
NRA says relax: But, according to Todd Rathner, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, Corieri and others like him have little to worry about.
Those who hold an Arizona concealed-weapons permit must undergo a criminal-background check, be fingerprinted and take an eight-hour training course.
"And frankly, the age demographic of permit holders is not the same as the demographic of people who go to nightclubs," Rathner said.
Just over a fourth of permit holders are 21 to 40 years old, according to statistics from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
The new law goes into effect in September and in addition to allowing entry to bars for those who have concealed-weapons permits, bar owners may prohibit firearms by posting signs next to their liquor permit sign in a "conspicuous" place.
Permit-holders are not allowed to drink alcohol while carrying their firearms. But if they do, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who supported the bill, said neither the server nor the establishment owner would be held responsible. It is already legal for people to carry exposed firearms into any place that doesn't prohibit it.
Arizona is the 40th state to enact such legislation, which Kavanagh describes as striking a balance between private property rights and the Second Amendment right to carry a weapon.
Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, sponsored the bill and said that state law allows other types of business to decide for themselves whether to allow firearms.
"If Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target can allow firearms and they sell alcohol, why not allow Denny's?" he asked in an email. "The standard will be the same: 'No drinking while carrying.'"
Guns and liquor: Randy Nation is an Arizona liquor industry consultant who was a police officer for 21 years, including time as a liquor enforcement officer. He said guns and liquor don't mix.
"I know this sounds funny, but I am an NRA card-holder. I believe in the right to bear arms, but I just don't think they belong in bars," he said. "And there's no way to regulate it, because bar owners won't know who's got a gun in their place—it's a concealed weapon."
"I have a concealed weapons permit, and do I believe that guns and alcohol mix? No, I don't," he said. "But I don't think it's going to put more guns in the bar. The person who's gone out and gotten the training isn't going to drink in the bar because he doesn't want to violate his permit."
Bars could ban: Donnally said he plans to consult with other bar and restaurant owners before deciding whether to post signs banning firearms.
"In Old Town Scottsdale, I don't think I need to post, but if I were running a business in rougher areas, I might," he said.
Rathner, the NRA lobbyist, said that when concealed-weapon permit holders first got the right to carry their firearms into most Arizona businesses a few years ago, some businesses posted anti-gun signs, including Wal-Mart and Blockbuster. But after a few years, retailers removed signs so as not to discourage customers.
He expects even less backlash now because of the economy.
"I would think (bar and restaurant owners) would not want to exclude people…so I would think that fewer people will post than may have in a more vibrant economy," he said.
Corieri remains unconvinced.
"We're going to talk about whatever we need to do to keep our guests and our staff feeling safe," he said. "Do we search purses? Open up coats? Wanding would be our last step, but if that's what it comes to, that's what we'll do. We're not going to allow this."