PHOENIX — The Arizona Senate has given final approval to a bill that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry a gun into a business that serves alcohol.
The 19-8 vote completes legislative action on the bill and sends it to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. She has not said whether she will sign it, but she has long been a supporter of gun rights.
The measure has pitted powerful groups representing gun and bar owners against each other, sparking a debate about whether guns and alcohol can coexist without bloodshed.
Critics of the measure say guns and alcohol are a dangerous combination.
"We don't let people drink and drive, why should we let them drink and carry guns?" said Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, who voted against the bill.
Supporters say they should be able to protect themselves and their families even if they happen to be inside a business serving alcohol.
"It's very important that criminals are now afraid rather than law abiding citizens," said Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, the bill's sponsor.
The measure would ban drinking while packing and allow restaurants to deny entry to gun-toting citizens by posting a sign next to their liquor license.
The bill initially required that a bar serving alcohol also serve food, but that provision was removed at the request of bar owners who worried about uncertainty over which bars have kitchens.
Forty other states have approved similar measures, according to the National Rifle Association.
Former Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill earlier this decade that would not have required people to have concealed weapons permits in order to carry guns in bars.
More than 127,000 Arizonans have concealed weapons permits, which require a gun safety course and background check, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
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