New Guns-in-Bars Bill Survives Tight Subcommittee Vote

A rewrite of last year’s law to allow firearms permit-holders to carry weapons in certain establishments that serve alcohol advanced in the state House Wednesday.

The 8-7 vote in the Budget Subcommittee came after an amendment was defeated that would have granted local governments authority to set aside state law and ban guns in such establishments.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, said he wants to reconfigure the law passed last year over the veto of Gov. Phil Bredesen so that it addresses a Davidson County judge’s declaration last year that it is unconstitutionally vague.

“All this bill does is shore up what the judge ruled,” he said.

Among the critics of the bill was Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, who offered the local option amendment.

“We do spend more time on gun bills than we do on looking out for the children of this state – without question,” he said.

While Naifeh acknowledged restaurants could post signs banning weapons under the legislation, he said that if one restaurant posts signs and the one next door does not, a restaurant would be at a competitive disadvantage.

Naifeh then offered the local option amendment, saying, “We normally allow our local governments to have a say-so in issues of this magnitude.”

While Naifeh presented the amendment as a compromise, Todd was skeptical.

“This is just another way to defeat this bill – allowing a local option,” he said.

Naifeh’s amendment got shot down 6-9.

The measure now heads to the House Finance Committee, which meets next week.