Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano yesterday vetoed a bill that would have allowed patrons to carry loaded guns into bars, nightclubs, and restaurants as long as the patrons didn’t imbibe. The Arizona Republic says Napolitano risks angering the National Rifle Association, which claims 100,000 members in Arizona and has lobbied for two years so gun owners could dine in restaurants that served alcohol without leaving their guns behind.
Napolitano, who said she was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, sided with Arizona’s tourism and hospitality industry and with major law enforcement organizations. They said the measure would invite deadly altercations. Todd Rathner of Tucson, a member of the NRA’s board of directors, said that the bill will return next year; he said the veto could harm Napolitano’s chances for re-election in 2006, adding that “law-abiding gun owners in Arizona have a very long memory.” Don Isaacson of the Arizona Restaurant Association said, “We believe the state is safer today with the governor’s veto.” Gun owner Rick DeStephens of Phoenix, an epidemiologist and “self-defense activist,” said opponents of guns in bars cannot point to any documented incidents of trouble with armed patrons in the 33 other states with laws similar to the vetoed bill.