Both barrels of the General Assembly are loading up and aimed at overriding Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s veto of legislation allowing firearm permit-holders to pack heat in any Tennessee establishments that sells beer or firewater.
Under the legislation, SB 3012, any bar or restaurant could post signs banning guns. If the owners do not, permit carriers would be allowed to enter with their pieces — so long as they don’t partake in drinking alcoholic beverages.
The vote on the final 2010 version of the bill in the House was 66-31. In the Senate, it passed on a vote of 23-9.
But the prohibition alone against booze consumption while possessing a weapon isn’t good enough for the governor. In his veto message released Tuesday afternoon, Bredesen indicated he believes allowing citizens to even bring guns into an establishment that serves wine, beer or liquor violates the general rule of thumb that “guns and alcohol don’t mix.”
Bredesen, who says he is a gun owner himself, observed in his veto statement that the legislation passed by both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly this year is little different than the legislation passed in 2009. That law was later was ruled unconstitutional by a Nashville judge, who said the provisions of the measure dictating where patrons could or couldn’t legally carry were too confusing for the average citizen to understand or figure out on their own.
Bredesen said he values “the constitutional right that allows me to protect my home and family.” But the governor indicated he believes the bill violates “common-sense.”
Referring to government-imposed bans on guns in places that serve alcohol, the governor wrote, “These rules don’t diminish our collective freedom, but ensure that this fundamental right is exercised in a common-sense manner that ensures the survival of the right itself.”
Legislators of both partisan stripes however promise that it’s the governor’s veto that won’t ultimately survive.
Dickson Democrat Doug Jackson, the chief Senate sponsor of the legislation this year and last, said the governor’s veto “was expected,” and that he recognizes the issue is an emotional one.
Jackson added, though, that he hopes people who believe in the democratic process will take solace in the assurance that “supermajorities” of Tennessee’s elected representatives “have looked at this very carefully,” and determined the general public has little to fear.
“During the time that the law was in effect, I didn’t hear one complaint from restaurant owners or patrons,” Jackson said. “The concerns perpetuated by opponents of this legislation were unfounded, and they will be proven so again.”
The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Curry Todd, a Collierville Republican, was unavailable for comment, but in a press release issued by the House Republican Caucus he said, “This bill passed by two-thirds in both bodies, indicating that there is strong support for this measure.”
In a telephone interview with TNReport.com, House Republican leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol, said, “I think we will probably override it faster than a speeding bullet.”
Mumpower said he believes the vote on the override in the House will come next week. That is likely the same time the Senate will vote on the matter, since that chamber is not meeting in session this week.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey weighed in as well, saying he is “confident we will override his veto, just as we did last year.”
“The legislation simply expands the ability of law-abiding permit holders to defend themselves and others in establishments which serve alcohol,” Ramsey said of the guns-in-bars bill. “It also allows owners to ban all weapons from their establishments and prohibits permit holders from consuming alcohol. Tennessee citizens who undergo the education and training required to obtain a permit should not be forced to relinquish their right to self-defense and the defense of their loved ones.”