Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia and Virginia recently joined 18 other states that allow handgun permit holders to bring guns in bars and restaurants, and the new developments follow two Supreme Court judgements that citizens have an individual right to keep a loaded handgun for home defense.
Noting that the gun lobby was pushing to expand guns in everyday life, the New York Times said that the Supreme Court rulings, which overturned handgun bans in Washington and Chicago, had strengthened the position of the pro-gun groups across the country.
"A lot of states for a long time have not felt the need to say you could or couldn't do it," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence. "There weren't as many conceal-carry permits out there, so it wasn't really an issue".
Now, Helmke added, "the attitude from the gun lobby is that they should be able to take their guns wherever they want. In the last year, they're starting to move toward needing no permit at all".
Governor Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican, had even called for guns to be made legal on campuses. Following a shooting last week at the University of Texas, Perry is arguing that if other bystanders had been warned, they may have stopped the gunman.
Under Tennessee's new law, however, gun permit holders are not supposed to drink alcohol while carrying weapons.
But critics point out that this provision does not guarantee safety. "Guns and alcohol don't mix; that's the bottom line," said Michael Drescher, a spokesman for Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, who vetoed the bill but was overridden by the legislature.
The law also allows restaurant and bar owners to post signs prohibiting people from bringing guns inside their bars and restaurants. But many business owners do not explicitly ban these firearms as they fear losing their gun-owning clientele.
An anonymous waiter has filed a complaint that guns in bars and restaurants create an unsafe work environment for people work inside. "I have a right to go into a restaurant or bar and not have people armed. And of course, the waiter has a right to a safe workplace," said David Randolph Smith, the waiter's lawyer.