Thursday, July 16, 2009

US gun debate fires up as states allow weapons in bars

Changes in gun legislation in Arizona and Tennessee comes despite bloody rampages in recent months

by Ed Pilkington in New York

Alcoholic drinks on a barUp to 375,000 registered gun owners in Arizona and Tennessee were today given the right to carry concealed guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, in the latest example of loosening gun laws in a country already renowned for its lax approach to firearms.

The change of the two states' gun laws marks a trend across the US towards increased rights for gun owners despite a spate of bloody rampages in recent months that have seen scores of Americans die. Advocates of the second amendment's right to bear arms argue that in the wake such shooting sprees, citizens should be able to defend themselves by carrying guns in public places.

But opponents say this is the logic of the mad house. Groups calling for greater regulation of gun ownership are opposing a move at the federal level to extend the right to carry concealed weapons to all 50 states.

Today, Tennessee granted its 250,000 citizens with gun licences the right to carry handguns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Restaurant owners made a last-minute attempt to block the change, saying it was bad for business, but their appeal was rejected by the courts.

Randy Rayburn, one of the restaurant owner plaintiffs, told a local TV network: "I'm not worried about the 99% of gun owners who are permit holders. I'm worried about the 1 or 2% of would-be Dirty Harrys who are going to carry out their attempts at vigilante justice."

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