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Arizona allows guns in bars. Should any place be off-limits?

The Arizona law highlights how gun owners can carry weapons to a growing number of places, from national parks to bars. Other venues, like churches, are now a part of the debate.

By Tracey D. SamuelsonContributor / September 30, 2009

Mark DeSimone, owner of Hidden House bar, places several warning signs up at different entrances of his bar not allowing patrons to bring guns inside on Sept. 24, in Phoenix. In a new law that takes effect on Wednesday, bar and restaurant owners have to deal with patrons now legally being allowed to carry concealed weapons into establishments that serve alcohol.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

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Starting Wednesday, Arizona citizens with a concealed weapons license can bring guns into bars. It is no nod to the Grand Canyon State’s Wild West beginnings. It is part of a national trend.

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Arizona will be the 41st state to let bar patrons pack heat (only if they’re not drinking alcohol, however). Meanwhile, the list of places where gun owners can bring their weapons is growing, as the gun lobby increases pressure on statehouses and Congress to broaden Second Amendment rights.

“The trend over the last 20 years is more freedom in most states for individuals to carry guns,” says Robert Cottrol, a law professor at George Washington University in Washington.

The issue took on even greater importance Wednesday when the US Supreme Court announced it will hear arguments as to whether a Chicago handgun ban violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The case could have implications for all local gun restrictions, which have been a central tenet of gun control.

Arizona

Arizona’s “guns in bars” law follows closely on the heels of its so-called “parking lot” law, which took effect Tuesday. It allows licensed gun owners to store guns in locked cars, even if they’re on someone else’s private property.

“Each person has the constitutional right to bear arms in order to defend themselves and their family while going about the normal course of their lives,” wrote Doug Little, the founder of the Armed Personal Defense Institute in Ariz., on his blog.

“The ‘parking lot law’ restores a right to an employee that their employer took away from them by prohibiting them from bringing a firearms with them to work and storing it in their vehicle,” he adds.

Congress

Beyond Arizona, Congress voted earlier this summer to allow concealed weapons in national parks. Last week, the Senate voted to allow guns in the checked baggage of Amtrak trains, despite warnings from the company that it would produce “numerous challenges.”

While guns are allowed in the checked luggage of airplanes, Amtrak has not allowed guns on broad its trains since 9/11.

“Americans should not have their Second Amendment rights restricted for any reason, particularly if they choose to travel on America’s federally subsidized rail line,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R) of Mississippi in a statement.

Other states

In Arkansas, state Rep. Beverly Pyle proposed allowing guns inside places of worship earlier this year. It seems as though the state’s ban will stand, but the issue is percolating.

Ken Pagano, a pastor in Kentucky, in June sponsored a bring-your-guns-to-church day.

“God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano told The New York Times.

Going forward, gun owners hope to make sure that no place will be off-limits.

“My guess is that too that the extent that there are restricted spaces, there will be a movement to push against that,” Professor Cottrol says.

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