Tennessee House approves guns-in-restaurants bill

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Tennessee House approves guns-in-restaurants bill

Postby Todd » Sat May 09, 2009 3:38 am

Tennessee House approves guns-in-restaurants bill Prohibitions dropped as measure heads to Senate

By Richard Locker, Memphis Commercial Appeal

May 7, 2009

NASHVILLE -- A bill that critics painted as a measure to allow "guns in bars" appears likely to go to the governor next week.

The state House gave its final approval Thursday to the bill that lets handgun-carry permit holders take guns into places that serve alcohol as long as they are not drinking themselves

The bill is headed toward certain legislative passage, with final approval likely in the Senate next week. After that, it goes to Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Even if Bredesen were to veto it, a simple majority vote of the legislature could override that veto, and the bill has passed both chambers with far more votes than needed.

Although Bredesen has expressed concern over guns and alcohol, he has not signaled his outright opposition to the bill.

The 66-23 House vote Thursday stripped out of the bill the ban on guns in alcohol-serving restaurants from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., which the House adopted April 6. The vote also removed language that prohibited guns in places serving alcohol that do not admit minors.

A House study committee had recommended both provisions on the theory that after 11 p.m., restaurants serve more alcohol than food, and that places that don't admit minors -- mostly restaurants and bars that allow smoking -- are also more "bar" than restaurant.

The bill now returns to the Senate for its final legislative approval but that is merely pro forma now. The Senate approved the bill 26-7 on April 16 in exactly the same form as it now stands except for one provision: It contains an effective date of June 1 rather than specifying that it goes into effect immediately when the bill becomes law.

The bill allows restaurant owners and managers to post signs banning guns, including those carried by permit holders. State law allows the 220,000 Tennessee handgun-carry permit holders to carry firearms in places where they are not prohibited.

The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, came under some fire for abandoning the 11-to-5 curfew and age-restricted-venue provisions when the bill was in a House-Senate conference committee.

"You yourself, mister sponsor, said that by having the age venue and by having the 11 to 5 a.m. really were the main parts of this bill and that made it to where we could be proud of what we did," said Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington. "And here you have taken those out and, in essence, what that has done is we now have true bars that alcohol and guns are going to be mixed in."

Rep. Mike Turner, D-Nashville, echoed Naifeh's concerns.

"We didn't debate guns in bars. We were talking about guns in restaurants. We took what the Senate gave us hook, line and sinker," Turner said. "I had mixed emotions about voting against the bill the first time. I have no mixed emotions about voting against this one. I think this is a little mischievous on your part."

Todd said there is "nothing mischievous about it" and said he honored his commitment to include the provisions -- first added in a House subcommittee several weeks ago -- through a House floor vote only.

"I honored my commitment. I was never for the curfew," he said. "I went along with that to get the bill through the study committee and the House."

Rep. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said the bill "will now allow law-abiding handgun-carry permit holders to feel safe when they go into restaurants like Chili's that happen to serve alcohol. This version of the bill eliminates the confusing time limitations and provides clarity to both law enforcement and to handgun-carry permit holders as to whether they can carry at all times in some locations and no times in certain locations."

Source: http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/20 ... ants-bill/
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