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So I was under the impression that で/に mostly depends on the final verb of the phrase, and that いる/ある requires に because it doesn't signify an action happening at a location.

Tobira's 10th chapter has this sentence in the reading:

アメリカでは自動販売機はたいてい建物の中にあって、外に置かれていることはほとんどないが、日本ではどこにでも自動販売機がある。

As we can see here, ~では〜あって、~では〜ある. I tried asking a native friend about it and she was unable to provide me a definitive answer why, other than that using には twice sounds repetitive in a way では doesn't. She also mentioned that you could switch the second では to には and it still sounds fine?

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You use に for a locative case that modifies some kinds of verbs including ある, as you say, so the example sentence goes "…の中 あって" and "どこでも…ある.

However, you basically use で for locative case in general. Now, suppose you are trying to modify the whole closes of 建物の中にあって and どこにでも…ある instead of mere あって and ある with some locative case, you'd use で according to the general principle. So, the sentence shall be as they are.

On the other hand, it's not absolutely impossible to say 日本では自販機がある if you mean something like "vending machines are available in Japan", not just "there are vending machines".

Edit: As for her claim that you can also say 日本にはどこにでも…ある, there's a room to consider if どこにでも is really a word that indicates a location.

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I think the crucial point here is that both では and には have a meaning and life on their own, independent of what verb the phrase contains. "xでは" conveys "as for x", and "xには" conveys "in x":

"アメリカではA、日本ではB": "As for the U.S., A; (however,) as for Japan, B."

"アメリカにはA、日本にはB": "In the U.S., A; (whereas) in Japan, B."

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1-1)銃を自由に持てる国がある。
Firstly, you focus on the fact (situation) that people freely own their guns.

1-2)そんな国はどこだ?
Secondly, you'd like to know where.

1-3)アメリカだ。
The full sentence should be the following, and the answer in Japanese you can express it with "では".
アメリカでは銃が自由に持てる。 It's US. People freely own their guns in the US.


2-1)ニューヨークに興味がある。
Firstly, you focus on the place(New York).

2-2)ニューヨークには何がある?
You don't know what is in New York(Manhattan), but now you'd like to know what is in Manhattan.

2-3)ニューヨークには自由の女神がある。
There is the Statue of Liberty in Manhattan. You can answer the question with "には" in Japanese.


J) あなたの国の自動販売機について話そう。
Let's talk about the vending machines in your country.(Not the vending machine in general, but the vending machine in someplace is the center of our interest.)
A) アメリカでは、ほとんどの自動販売機が建物の中にある。
J-1) 日本では、ほとんどの自動販売機は(が)どこにでもある。
J-2) 日本には、ほとんどの自動販売機は(が)どこにでもある。
J-1 is natural in this context. It's somewhat confusing, but J-2 is also ok.
J-2 focuses not on the difference between US and Japan, but on Japan itself.


J) おたがいの国にについて話そう。
Let's talk about our countries.
F) フランスには、どの道にもしっかりした歩道{ほどう}がある。
J) 日本には、白い線を引いただけの、簡単{かんたん}な歩道もある。
F) フランスでは、歩道に必ず犬の糞{ふん}がある。
J) 日本では、たまに見かけるだけだ。

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