Arizona Restaurant Carry Imperfections

R. Franz, in the comments, points out that Arizona’s restaurant carry law, recently signed by the Governor, has some flaws.  Chiefly that the bill exempts people with Concealed Carry Licenses from the prohibition on carrying in an establishment licensed to serve alcohol, but that the prohibition still stands for people openly carrying a firearm.

The last bill, which Governor Napolitano vetoed, just repealed the restriction on firearms in establishments licensed to serve alcohol, which would have made no distinction between licensed concealed carry and open carry.  The bill which was introduced this year, and which NRA supported, was identical to the one Napolitano vetoed.

But everyone in the legislature knew Napolitano was going to veto the bill, and when a legislator knows that, they tend not to be all that concerned with voting for a bill they don’t really like.  They know they can use the vote to please one constituency, knowing that the competing constituencies won’t get all bent out of shape because the veto is assured.

Fast forward to this year, and Napolitano gets called up by the Obama Administration to head up Homeland Security.  Secretary of State Jan Brewer assumes the Governorship and indicates that she will sign a restaurant carry bill.  That changes the politics of the situation a bit, and suddenly legislators who were willing to vote for a bill they knew would be vetoed suddenly start to express concern, and suddenly a the votes that were there before are no longer.  So what now?  You can either amend the bill to deal with concerns of some legislators in an attempt to pick up the votes you need to pass the bill, or you can push the bill forward as is and risk it dying.  There are reasons to go either way.   Some reasons to let the bill die:

  1. There might not be a way to move forward without screwing someone.  In other words, you’d have to give away too much to get the votes you need.
  2. If you pass an imperfect bill, it can make fixing the problems more difficult down the road, since some people got what they wanted, they might not have as much incentive to fight for the rest.
  3. The electoral situation could change in your favor.

But there are problems with letting the bill die:

  1. The other side will claim they beat you, and use your defeat to raise more money, enhance their own reputation at your expense.
  2. The electoral situation could change in the other side’s favor.
  3. People may run out of patience with the issue, and with you, waiting for the perfect bill.

So what do you do if you’re a lobbyist in this situation?  What I would look at is:

  • What do I need to change about the bill to get the votes I need?  Am I giving rights to one group and taking away from another within our coalition?  That kind of thing would be off the table, but if I can get a partial win, without too many concessions, that’s might be worth doing while we have the opportunity.
  • What direction is the legislature going?  If I hold out for a better bill, is the environment going to improve, or get worse?  In the case of Arizona, there’s an awful lot of Californians and Damned Yankees moving in who don’t mind voting for anti-gun Democrats.
  • Who am I going to piss off if I don’t make a deal to get the votes?  Some of the bill’s sponsors are going to be anxious to take something home to show the constituents, even if it’s not perfect.  Am I going to burn bridges with some of those people if I drop support for the bill if a reasonable deal is possible?
  • If we stick with the perfect bill, and it inevitably fails, who in the legislature is vulnerable enough on this issue that we might be able to unseat them and replace them with someone who will play ball?  Doing this is a tremendous gamble.  Unseating an incumbent is never a smart bet.  You don’t want to play that game unless you really have to.
  • Are some of the lawmakers expressing concern about the bill people who are soft on the issue, but that you’re trying to firm up?  If so, will taking a hard line when they are willing to meet you most of the way there going to push them away from your overall position?

Obviously, given what we know about the restaurant carry bill in Arizona, NRA decided to take a partial victory rather than holding out for a perfect bill.  I don’t honestly know enough about the political makeup of the Arizona Legislature to say for sure it was the right call, but neither do a lot of the critics of NRA’s legislative strategy.  But you can at least get some idea of how a lobbyist on an issue has to think, and all the different competing interests that have to be balanced.  Moving a bill is cat herding in its highest form as an art.  Legislators are often odd, quirky people, who have to balance a lot of competing interests.  Keeping them on the reservation in regards to your interests is difficult even when you have a lot of carrot and stick to use, as we do in the gun issue.  But the Arizona Restaurant Association has a lot of carrot and stick too, as nearly all legislators will have restaurants in their district, and people who work for and patronize them.  I agree with R. Franz that it would have been nice to get open carry too, but I am reminded of the well known Rolling Stones song:

No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need

12 thoughts on “Arizona Restaurant Carry Imperfections”

  1. I understand R. Franz’s objections to the bill, but what we got is better than nothing, which is what we would have had without the compromises that were made. This year was a tough year for any legislation in Arizona, due to the budget issue. Anything too controversial would have never made it through committee (like SB1270, constitutional carry, which would have had a much better chance in a normal year).

    Next year we can introduce legislation that fixes the problems with SB1113 and further strengthens the RKBA in Arizona, and we can point to the complete lack of blood in the streets as evidence that “guns in bars” isn’t the recipe for disaster that the GFW lobby claims.

  2. OK, I read the whole post.

    Please proof read before posting. I hate trying to decipher what was meant to be said, but was garbled because the writer did not proof read before posting.

    BTW, the AP is worse. And they get paid.

    Signed, ANAL Asshole.

  3. > If you pass an imperfect bill, it can make fixing the problems >more difficult down the road, since some people got what >they wanted, they might not have as much incentive to fight >for the rest.

    And this is often not just a huge practical, but also a major moral issue.

  4. MB:

    That’s probably the chief danger in partial victories, but ideally the coalition keeps pushing until we get the whole thing. It doesn’t always work that way, but it’s still a trade off. There are costs and risks to waiting for the perfect bill.

  5. I will say, though, that a bill which would remove some freedom from one part of the coalition to enrich another would be wrong and improper. If the deal to get the votes needed for restaurant carry would have been to ban open carry in, say, public parks, that wouldn’t be a deal that should not be made. In this case, we got to advance the ball one yard instead of two.

  6. AzCDL is very passionate about this issue. I’m confident that they won’t let it die until it’s done right.

  7. I think the folks who are crying about a partial victory aren’t seeing the big picture. It’s a glass half empty perspective. I prefer to see it as glass half full and it will be fixed later. In the meantime I can make the wife happy by taking her out to someplace besides the breakfast joint.

  8. While I do thank you for looking into it, my objection stands. I understand the NRA’s reasoning for seeking compromise before the bill even got off the ground, but this wasn’t their baby, they aren’t the only lobbyists in this state, and frankly, this isnt their state.

    I greatly appreciate the support the NRA gives in backing state bills, and even many of the bills they ask to be introduced, but this comes across as needless meddling, which seems more and more par for the course.

    Of course it is possible that the bill wouldn’t have passed, but i don’t know of any reason anyone would know that ahead of time, and this was the perfect year (other than the snafu with the budget, which derailed a number of good bills) to go for the gold. If it hadn’t have passed, because of clear political objections like those listed, it would make plenty of sense to make concessions to get something passed in the next session. Making concessions before you have lost just seems silly, and borderline sabotage when its not your bill you are making concessions to.

    Its all good to say we moved the ball foreward a yard, and getting something is better than nothing, but we also removed the urgency in addressing the danger of a public gunfree zone, in the future, making it that much less pressing to address, as opponents and moderates will simply say, if you want to be safe, get your CCW, or as our former governor wrote last year, in one of her veto statements on a pro gun rights bill, that we want to have our cake and eat it too. Of course all Arizonians are made safer by this law being signed, just as they would be safer if all blue eyed people were allowed to carry in restaurants, but that doesnt make it full realization of civil rights, or the right thing to do.

    Isn’t that exactly the reasoning the NRA gave for not supporting Illinois’ CCW efforts, In what comes down to the same lack of the NRA supporting state lobbying groups? That passing of a CCW law without preemption would just take the wind out of the sails, removing the urgency and pressure it would take to pass the “right” bill? That moving the ball forward a yard was a bad idea, if it made the likelyhood of a touchdown less? Illinois had already lost that battle several times, and was prepared to make compromises to achieve some progress, rather than having just passed the exact same bill as was proposed, the year previous.

    I am also worried about the precedence set in creating, for the first time in Arizona, CCW as a vehicle of gun privilege, which all previous laws respected as an extension of existing rights.

    If nothing else, I hope the NRA takes the matter seriously and puts forth a sincere effort next session to take on passing the “right” bill and finishing the job that was started this year, if it is still possible, but I, for one, am much more likely to take my yearly contributions to state organizations next year, than see the NRA spend it to not support the state groups like the AZCDL that are working hard to establish legal recognition of our civil rights.

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