Liberty and Justice

Gov. Haslam, Rep. Todd Link Up: Todd Says He’s Sorry

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam saw Rep. Curry Todd at a charity golf tournament Monday and said Todd, who was arrested last week for drunken driving with a loaded weapon in his car, told him he made a mistake.

“He said, ‘I realize I made a bad mistake, and I’m sorry,'” Haslam said.

Todd, a Republican from Collierville, participated in a golf event Monday held by Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and Rep. Gary Odom. Harwell, a Republican, and Odom, a Democrat, both represent Nashville.

“I went out there to have breakfast, and Curry was part of the group playing golf,” Haslam said. “I asked him how he was doing. It was purely more of a personal conversation. We didn’t talk about the Legislature.

“I was obviously, like everybody else really, sorry to see that happen. It was a big mistake from Representative Todd that could have had dangerous consequences. I think he is aware of that as well.”

The governor addressed several issues with reporters after he spoke to the Governor’s Housing Summit in Franklin, including Todd’s arrest, the Occupy Wall Street protests, school vouchers and the matter of Tennesseans over 60 not having to have photos on their driver’s licenses.

Todd’s arrest, which has rekindled the debate over gun carry laws in the state since Todd was the sponsor of the bill to allow guns in bars, has begun to raise speculation about the course of the agenda under the Republican-controlled Legislature next year.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick had put Todd in the chairman’s role of a task force on firearms. But Todd reportedly told McCormick after the arrest he would vacate that position, and McCormick had been considering lowering the profile of the gun task force to focus more on the economy. McCormick reportedly has decided to keep the task force going, but with a diminished priority.

Todd announced Monday afternoon that he’s stepping down as chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee “until this matter is resolved.”

“The Committee’s work is an important aspect of the General Assembly and I do not want my actions to distract from that,” read a short statement from Todd.

Haslam was asked about any potential impact on the legislative agenda next year, but he offered only clues to his own agenda, which seemed to be devoid of gun issues.

“If you look at what we proposed last year, and I think the bills we propose this year, there will be things focused again on jobs, education and things that are budget-related,” Haslam said. “I think you’ll continue to see our focus be there. That’s what it was last year.”

Haslam’s reference to “last year” was to the legislative session held in the first part of 2011. The Legislature will reconvene in January 2012.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey last week said he wanted to revisit the matter of why Tennesseans over 60 are allowed to have driver’s licenses without their photographs on them — one of the snags in the state’s new photo ID law for voting. Ramsey said he was looking for the justification of the 60-and-over exemption, and Haslam was asked if he would advocate addressing it as well.

“I guess I would want to hear the pros and cons of that,” Haslam said. “I assume the reason of that was just to make it easier, or maybe for some personal reasons for folks over 60. I don’t understand the reason why there was an exception there to begin with.

“I’m sure there is a good reason. I just don’t happen to know how that came to be.”

People have camped out in New York in an “Occupy Wall Street” protest, which has been copied in other cities, including Nashville, where protesters have gathered recently at Legislative Plaza. Haslam said he sees disgruntlement among the people.

“I think what you really have is a lot of dissatisfaction about the current condition of the country,” Haslam said. “You see that in how people feel about: How confident are you about the direction of the country? That’s come out in a lot of ways.

“Right now, their message is fairly — how should I describe it? — disorganized. There are a lot of different thoughts there. I think, at the root, people are saying, ‘We really don’t like the way things are going.’ My point back would be: Let’s talk about what we would do differently. Let’s talk about specific things that have caused us to be here and what we would do differently.”

Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, has said he plans to pursue a school voucher initiative for low-income students in Hamilton, Knox, Davidson and Shelby counties, which hold the state’s four largest cities. The Senate approved a similar measure in April, but the House Education Subcommittee sent the bill for further study.

Haslam said his administration is trying to decide how to approach the voucher issue and that there is no decision yet. He said the benefit is giving parents choice on where their children go to school but that there is a need to balance that against whether such an approach is helpful or harmful to existing public schools.

Haslam addressed the nation’s economic woes in his speech to a luncheon on housing held at the Marriott at Cool Springs.

“I don’t know how we could have a more challenging environment,” he told the crowd. “I would love to tell you I think that is going to get a lot better sometime soon. But I really don’t think that.

“As confident as I am long-term about the future of Tennessee, I think we are, like everyone else, caught in the grips of working our way out of some serious economic issues.”

Business and Economy Featured Liberty and Justice

Tourism to TN Up Following ‘Guns-in-Bars’ Law

Tennessee would turn into the Wild West. Drunken shootouts would be the norm. And tourists would shun the state, opting for safer, calmer locales.

Those were the predictions of opponents of a law to allow any of the state’s 317,000 gun owners with handgun carry permits to take their weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol so long as they abstain from drinking. But two years after the law’s initial passage, administration officials say the courts have not convicted anyone of wielding a gun while intoxicated at a bar, nor has tourism in the Volunteer State plummeted.

In 2010, the year after the law first passed, the state’s tourism numbers were up 6.3 percent, according to state officials. Every county saw a boost in tourism, according to a report by the Department of Tourism Development and the U.S. Travel Association.

“It doesn’t surprise me that tourism didn’t drop,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville. “There wasn’t one documented case still to this day of someone going into a bar, a gun permit holder, and using their firearm. There’s still not.”

The issue drew renewed attention this week, after the sponsor of the so-called guns-in-bars law, Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, was arrested in Nashville on charges of drunk driving and carrying a loaded handgun while intoxicated. Critics of the law say the arrest shoots holes in the law, but Ramsey rejected those suggestions.

The idea that the incident should trigger a repeal of the law is the logical equivalent of arguing that people should no longer be allowed to drive because of the chance of drunk driving, he said.

Critics of the law contend the bump-in-tourism statistics don’t reflect the groups that took their conventions elsewhere out of fear they’d encounter hordes of heavily armed hillbillies whooping it up in the local honky-tonks.

“As wonderful as Tennessee is, it sends an image out to the world that we’re a bunch of red-thumbed rednecks with a bunch of guns,” said Adam Dread, a Nashville attorney who led the court challenge against the law in 2009,

While Dread says his sense is to “feel sorry” for Rep. Todd, he thinks the Shelby County Republican’s arrest “exposed the hypocrisy of the whole bill” and does indeed buttresses the case for repeal of the law.

“Every law-abiding gun owner should be ticked about it,” said Dread.

In fact, abiding by the law appears to be just what the vast majority of Tennessee’s licensed gun-carriers are doing when they’re packing heat in establishments that serve alcohol. According to the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, not one person with a handgun permit has been convicted of brandishing their weapon while drinking in a bar.

“We have not been notified by any courts across the state for any violations of that law,” said department spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals. “To our knowledge, there have been no convictions of that law.”

In 2009, Todd led lawmakers in passing the “guns-in-bars” bill, overriding a veto by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, who said the legislation was “reckless and lacking basic safeguards to ensure public safety.” A Nashville judge later weighed in, striking down the law and saying its language was unconstitutionally vague in its definition of restaurants and bars.

In 2010, Todd got his bill passed a second time but with more specific language, including a provision allowing individual patrons to bring guns with them into any establishment that serves alcohol unless the bar or restaurant bans guns. Again, the Legislature approved the measure despite Bredesen’s protests.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Todd said he was “deeply sorry” for the events surrounding his arrest, adding he would talk with House Speaker Beth Harwell next week about whether he should step down from his post as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee.

House Republican Leader Gerald McCormick told reporters he wouldn’t rush to judgment on Todd’s arrest, but said everyone makes mistakes.

“I think it’s a bad idea to drink and carry a gun, obviously. Now I don’t know the details of what happened with Rep. Todd (Tuesday) night, but I think he would agree with me, and I know he would agree with me, that people who are drinking should not have loaded handguns with them,” said McCormick, of Chattanooga.

Asked whether the allegations against Todd call into question whether other handgun carry permit holders should continue to be trusted to follow the law, McCormick said, “Until we find out all the details, I’d be hesitant to answer that.”

Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester demanded Todd resign from the Legislature and said any inaction by Harwell will reveal whether “she believes Republican leaders deserve special treatment or she believes these actions demand consequences.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner was more supportive of his peer across the aisle, saying he hopes Todd keeps his committee chairmanship.

Todd was arrested in Nashville at 10:55 p.m. Tuesday down the street from Vanderbilt University. According to a police affidavit, Todd reeked of alcohol, his eyes were “red, watery and bloodshot,” and his speech was slurred. Police said he was “extremely unsteady on his feet” during the field sobriety tests, and Todd attempted to lean on his vehicle to steady himself. He refused a breath alcohol test, although he admitted to having two drinks.

Police later learned Todd had a loaded Smith & Wesson 38 Special in a holster tucked between the driver’s seat and the center console. He was released from jail Wednesday on a $3,000 bond.

Todd, who is retired from a career in law enforcement, could lose his handgun carry permit for three years if convicted of possessing the handgun while under the influence, a Class A misdemeanor which is punishable with less than one year of jail time and a fine of no more than $2,500.

Liberty and Justice News

Governor’s Guns-in-Bars Veto Gone

The Tennessee House of Representatives has joined the Senate in setting aside Gov. Phil Bredesen’s guns-in-bars veto.

Tennesseans who are legally permitted to carry firearms in public can now bring their weapons into establishments that serve alcoholic beverages — an act that was formerly prohibited in the state.

This is the second time since last year that such a bill has been passed, vetoed, then the veto overridden.

This year’s bill is in fact more permissive than that passed in 2009. It allows licensed weapons carriers to possess their firearms in bars, and not — like last year’s — just in establishments that make the majority of their revenues off food sales.

As approved, the legislation would allow owners of establishments who do not want handgun permit holders to bring their weapons into their businesses to post signs that would ban guns. They would be able to do so either by hanging up signs at entrances using the universal red circle-and-slash or by posting up a copy of the actual law.

A handgun permit holder caught drinking while packing a firearm could be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.

The vote on the override measure was 61-30.

There was no discussion on the bill, which was taken after 9 p.m. and subsequent to a long day of legislative action on the House floor.

Featured News

Senate Overrides Bredesen’s Guns-in-Bars Veto

Sen. Doug Jackson went on an uninterrupted 16-minute speaking spree on the Senate floor Thursday, during which he unloaded a magazine’s worth of withering criticism at advocates of restricting the right to carry firearms for self defense.

“The problem is not law-abiding citizens with guns, the problem is criminals with guns,” said Jackson, a Democrat from Dickson. “The problem is not the gun, it is who has the gun.”

The issue at hand was the guns-in-bars legislation the Tennessee General Assembly spent much of the 2010 session reloading after a Nashville judge trigger-locked last year’s version. Gov. Phil Bredesen vetoed the latest legislation a week ago, and as expected, the Senate overrode his veto in decisive fashion Thursday, 22-10. A similar result is likely in the House, as the governor has himself said he expects.

But Jackson took the opportunity of the vote to declare the issues at stake in the debate are much broader than just the guns-in-bars matter, per se, or the governor’s veto of it.

“Can we call ourselves ‘free’ if government attempts to arbitrarily dictate how, when, where — or even if — citizens can defend themselves? Should not government have to at least establish a compelling interest to restrict fundamental rights?” Jackson asked at one point. “If not, if your answer to that question is no, then can you call it a right?”

As for the veto itself, Jackson asserted that Bredesen basically ignored the political reality that one way or another the General Assembly was again going to pass legislation allowing guns in places where people consume alcohol. He suggested the governor essentially abdicated his place at the negotiation table on the issue in favor of maintaining a dead-end public posture of intransigence.

“For two years I have asked the administration to work with us on all provisions of this bill,” Jackson said. “This session I asked the deputy governor and the director of legislative affairs to communicate with the bill sponsors and the committees on safeguards the governor referenced last year in his veto announcement.”

“I directly asked the governor personally to work with us and communicate with us what he would like to see in this legislation,” Jackson added. “To date, I have had no communication whatsoever from the administration — none about what provisions this bill should or should not have in the view of the executive branch.”

The governor’s spokeswoman, Lydia Lenker, defended her boss following Jackson’s remarks in an email to TNReport: “The Governor has clearly communicated his concerns with this legislation with the members of the General Assembly, through his public statements and through his veto messages to the House and Senate Speakers. He believes this bill violates the fundamental principle that alcohol and guns don’t mix.”

Judging by the quiet aftermath of Jackson’s take-no-prisoners rhetorical rampage, he must’ve hit some of his targets — or at least aimed true enough to startle them into hunkering down — as there wasn’t a man standing to try rebutting or deflecting any of Jackson’s hail of words.

The only Senator to even attempt returning fire was Beverly Marrero. The Memphis Democrat indicated she and the constituents for whom she speaks had taken up positions against Jackson’s bill as a result of their agreement with the notion “that it is not a good idea to have guns in bars, and places that predominately serve alcohol.”

“I think that most of my constituents agree with that premise,” said Marrero. She asked that Jackson “respect (her) right to disagree.”

During the course of his barrage, Jackson accused the governor — and others who staunchly opposed the bill — of resorting to “emotion and fear” and employing platitudes like “guns and alcohol don’t mix” in place of legitimate policy discussion rooted in facts, evidence and historical experience. He blasted his foes for cleaving to their “fundamental principle” that firearms and booze-serving establishments are incompatible with one another while ignoring that Tennesseans enjoy the “fundamental right” to defend themselves with a gun if they so choose.

They also disregarded provisions that make it illegal for a gun-carrier to consume “one drop of alcohol,” he said.

“The right of self-defense is the right that transcends any constitution and any law,” Jackson said. “So I ask, what evidence exists to justify governmental restriction on this issue? You will not find the answer to that in the veto message of the administration.”

Bredesen’s veto message, dated May 18, did contain a passage stating that while he “value(s) the constitutional right that allows me to protect my home and family…this fundamental right has long been exercised within common-sense, reasonable rules.”

“These rules don’t diminish our collective freedom, but instead ensure that this fundamental right is exercised in a manner that ensures the survival of the right itself,” Bredesen wrote.

The governor also noted that the Volunteer State has “long prohibited the possession of firearms in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.” Bredesen proclaimed that the bill passed last year by the General Assembly was “reckless and lacking in basic safeguards to public safety.”

Rather than taking a “more responsible approach” after last year’s law was ruled unconstitutional, Bredesen continued, lawmakers “re-passed last year’s legislation in an even more expansive and dangerous form.”

He went on to urge the Legislature to “rethink the issue.”

Jackson did indeed give some indication that he’d been mulling the bill a bit lately, and the governor’s veto — along with the attached notice, which Jackson assured the Senate he’d read “very carefully.”

“Frankly, the veto notice contains clichés and conclusions, but I ask the members to look at it closely for what you do not see,” he said. “The veto notice is totally void of facts, data, statistics or information of any kind to substantiate the position of the executive branch. It shares no evidence that supports his decision to veto. ”

“The governor has asked the legislature to re-think the issue,” Jackson concluded. “I respectfully ask the executive branch to ‘think’ the issue, and I ask for your support.”

Press Releases

Sen. Jackson’s Guns-in-Bars Veto Override Speech

Transcript of Remarks by Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, May 27, 2010:

“Today, I rise for the second time to ask this Senate to override the veto of legislation that provides law-abiding citizens the right and ability to protect themselves in establishments across the state.

“Let me begin by saying, I respect the governor of the state of Tennessee. I respect the office that he holds, and the office which the people of Tennessee have allowed him to hold. I appreciate his good and accomplished service, and his accomplishments are considerable. However, on this issue, I respectfully submit the governor is wrong.

“In his veto notice, the governor says that Senate Bill 3012 lacks ‘basic safeguards for public safety.’ What are the safeguards to which the governor refers? It remains a mystery to all lawmakers.

“For two years, I have asked the administration to work with us on the provisions of this bill. This session, I asked the deputy governor and the director of legislative affairs to communicate with the bill sponsors and the committees on safeguards that the governor referenced last year in his veto announcement, safeguards that the executive branch would like to see contained within this bill. I directly asked the governor, personally, to work with us and communicate with us about what he would like to see in this legislation. To date, I have had no communication whatsoever with the administration about what provisions this bill should or should not have in the view of the executive branch.

“If the governor believes the legislation poses a threat to public safety, then I believe we could all agree that communication should have occurred between the executive branch and the legislative branch, as it has on hundreds of other issues this session, many of which dealt with issues far less important than public safety.

“Since the only communication from the executive branch has been the veto notice that was disseminated to the public and the media and to each of us, I have taken the time to read it very carefully. Frankly, the veto notice contains clichés and conclusions, but I ask the members to look at it closely for what you do not see, because the veto notice is totally void of facts, data, statistics or information of any kind to substantiate the position of the executive branch. It shares no evidence that supports his decision to veto.

“For example, the veto notice states that ‘Guns and alcohol do not mix.’ A truism. I completely agree, as does every member of this Senate, which is why Senate Bill 3012 makes it a crime for a permit holder to consume a single drop of alcohol and for enhanced consequences should a permit holder fall under the influence of alcohol. If the governor submits that a permit holder having dinner in a restaurant that serves alcohol results in more gun crime, then should he not share the evidence of that with this Senate and the House? We have asked for some information; it has not been produced.

“The veto notice implies the bill lacks ‘common sense.’ Ladies and gentlemen, the ‘common sense’ argument is usually employed when the evidence is best ignored. And when the evidence in favor of Senate Bill 3012 is so compelling, I can understand why critics would choose to ignore that evidence. This General Assembly examined the evidence very carefully and very thoroughly. And based on evidence, not emotion, the legislation has passed the House and the Senate with bipartisan, super-majority votes last year and this year.

“The veto letter attempts to fuel emotion and fear by describing the legislation as reckless and dangerous. Again, there is no evidence to support such inflammatory descriptions, which I submit is intended only to fuel opposition to the bill and create fear within the public.

“In 1997, the General Assembly passed a law requiring the issuance of a permit to any citizen who completes a training course, passes a practical and written test, submits an application under oath with a photograph and fingerprints, and then passes a criminal background check. Those who were in the legislature at that time can remember the outcry from critics of the legislation, including many in the news media, who characterized the legislation as the ‘Wild West Bill’ and predicted bloodshed in the street and great harm to public safety. They described that bill as reckless and lacking in common sense. Today, we know that those critics were wrong. With over 300,000 permits now issued or processed in the state of Tennessee, and that number increasing by approximately 5,000 a month, with a 40 percent increase in Davidson County in the last two years, we have a clear record of safety and responsibility that is irrefutable – a record that goes back 13 years. Tennessee’s good experience is shared by the millions of permit holders in 45 states which issue permits. Now, those states extend from Vermont to Alaska, Texas to Minnesota, California – every state surrounding the state of Tennessee but one allows permit holders to carry in establishments that serve alcohol.

“And yet, the experience in those states has not been bad. The experience has been very positive. Law-abiding citizens have now proven that they can be trusted, that the problem is not law-abiding citizens with guns; the problem is criminals with guns. The problem is not the gun. It’s who has the gun.

“Since 1997, Tennessee’s permit holders have been allowed to be armed in most places such as streets, sidewalks, office buildings, grocery stores and markets, malls and most restaurants. You can go to Shoney’s, Cracker Barrel, McDonald’s, Burger King or just your favorite diner out in the country. Permit holders have been dining with our constituents for many, many years, and I bet your experience has been the same as mine. I have never had a complaint from a single citizen because a permit holder made them feel uncomfortable. Not a one.

“In 1980, only about 6 states were shall-issue permit states. Today, that number is about 45. As those permit laws were debated over the years, critics, the media and some criminologists often claimed that good citizens could not be trusted, and that more crime would result from such laws. Over time, the debate among criminologists has narrowed. I challenge the news media to show me differently. The debate today is not whether permit laws result in an increase in crime. The debate is whether they have no effect on rates crime, or they reduce rates of crime. It’s between no effect and good effect. No one argues that the permit laws across the country have resulted in more crime, because as millions of permits have been issued, we have seen the crime rate in this country plummet. Sort of a remarkable idea, isn’t it? You let law-abiding people defend themselves when they feel the need for that, and crime levels fall.

“This legislation will allow permit holders to lawfully enter establishments that serve alcohol, such as O’Charley’s or Ruby Tuesday, provided the owner has not posted the property and provided the permit holder not consume a single drop of alcohol. Again, lawmakers have looked at the evidence before voting on the legislation. The facts reveal that in the 40 or so states that allow permit holders to enter establishments that serve alcohol, the laws in those states have not resulted in an increased rate of violent crime. To assume that permit holders will suddenly become lawbreakers when they enter an establishment where alcohol is served not only defies common sense, but it defies clear evidence provided by the real-world experience of most states in this country over many, many years. By the way, every state bordering Tennessee except North Carolina allows permit holders to enter establishments where alcohol is served. Florida, while not a bordering state, has allowed this for 22 years. The evidence is available, the experience is clear.

“Critics have gone so far as to claim that this law will tarnish our economy, that it will drive tourism away from the state of Tennessee. Well, where will it go? Most states have a law in place that is the same or similar to what is being proposed in Tennessee. Tennessee is not leading the way on this issue. Tennessee is one of the last states to follow.

“No one is advocating that everyone should carry a gun. But I do advocate that every good, honest, law-abiding citizen should have the choice to do so. The right to self-defense is a right that transcends any Constitution or any law. Can we call ourselves free if government attempts to arbitrarily dictate how, when, where or even if citizens can defend themselves? Should not government have to establish a compelling reason to restrict fundamental rights? If not, if your answer to that question is no, then can you call it a right? So I ask: What evidence exists to justify governmental restriction on this issue? You will not find the answer to that in the veto answer from the administration.

“Every day, as we watch the news and hear about terrible crimes – murders, rapes, assaults, home invasions – we sometimes forget about the victims and the victims’ families. In many neighborhoods, gangs and violent crimes are pervasive. They’re a part of neighborhood life. Remember: Many good and honest citizens must live next to criminals and thugs and drug dealers and gangs. They’ve got to go to work in the dark and they return home in the dark, and they’ve got to secure themselves behind barred windows and security doors. Why would we tolerate any law that makes it more difficult for good citizens to carry a defensive weapon, if a good citizen believes it’s necessary for their defense or defense of family?

“Crime can occur anywhere. Does it matter to critics of this legislation that a woman is 2.5 times less likely to be injured or killed when confronted with violence if that woman is armed? Does it matter that an armed citizen is almost never harmed or killed when forced by dire circumstance to display a firearm when confronted by violent crime? The evidence shows that the criminal stops aggressing. Why would we keep laws in place that require good citizens to disarm, increasing their chances of becoming a victim?

“Senate Bill 3012 is about defending a fundamental right under the state and federal Constitution, the citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. It is about trust of law-abiding citizens. It is about individual choice and responsibility. It is about respecting the good citizen’s right of self-defense. It is about acknowledging that laws only apply to the citizens who obey the laws, not the criminals. In spite of the excellent record of safety and responsibility established by good, honest citizens across this country and across this state, the veto message of the Governor says, ’I do not trust you, and I do not need evidence to support my position. I simply don’t trust you. I veto this because I can.’

“The Governor has asked the legislature to re-think the issue. I respectfully ask the executive branch to ‘think’ the issue, and I ask for your support on Senate Bill 3012.”


Lawmakers Blast Bredesen’s Guns-in-Bars Veto

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, 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.”

Liberty and Justice News

Guns-in-Bars Bill Going to the Guv

Approved by the state House Wednesday night, legislation to allow permit-holders to carry firearms into establishments that serve alcohol is headed to the governor’s desk.

The measure passed 66-31 House Wednesday night. The Senate approved the legislation 23-9 last week.

If the legislation, SB3012, becomes law, it would replace a similar measure that was deemed by a judge last year as being unconstitutional because it was too vague.

Bredesen vetoed last year’s bill, but the Legislature overrode him.

Earlier during House floor debate, an amendment failed on a 60-36 vote that would have banned any weapons from being taken into establishments that derive more than 50 percent of their revenue from alcohol rather than food.

As approved, the legislation would allow owners of establishments who do not want handgun permit holders to bring their weapons into their businesses to post signs that would ban guns. They would be able to do so either by hanging up signs at entrances using the universal red circle-and-slash or by posting up a copy of the actual law.

If an establishment owner allowed guns into the business, and a handgun permit holder was caught drinking, a violation would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.

The sharpest criticism of the bill came from Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville, who said he is a member of the National Rifle Association, and indicated he felt unwanted pressure from the gun-group to vote for the bill.

“Essentially, the NRA is saying to us, ‘If you don’t support and vote for carrying guns in bars, we will not endorse you and in fact oppose you,'” said McCord.

“This line of reasoning is bordering on lunacy,” he continued. “The NRA is not right here, and we’re not standing up to them. It makes me wonder what line will we not cross for the NRA? At what point do we say, ‘This is too much?”

Rep. Henry Fincher, D-Cookeville, responded, “We have made a choice in this state to trust our handgun permit holders.”

“When we draw imaginary lines on the ground and say, ‘We trust you here, handgun permit holder, but we don’t trust you there, handgun permit holder,’ we are doing nothing but creating pleasing fiction. Gun-free zones are a fiction. Columbine High School was a was a gun-free zone. The school in Knoxville was a gun-free zone. Criminals, felons, killers, don’t care about imaginary lines.”

Press Releases

Guns-in-Bars Bill Clears Senate

Press Release from Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, April 29, 2010:

Bill allows permit holders to carry weapons in establishments that serve alcohol

NASHVILLE – The State Senate passed a bill Thursday 23-9 sponsored by Sen. Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) to allow handgun carry permit holders to take their weapons into establishments that serve alcohol.

“This version of the legislation will provide law-abiding citizens the opportunity to responsibly and legally exercise their Second Amendment rights while allowing business owners to run their establishments as they like,” Jackson said.

The bill (SB3012) allows handgun carry permit holders to legally take their weapons into establishments where alcohol is served. The Senate version passed Thursday would make illegal the consumption of alcohol while carrying a firearm, and allows business owners to ban guns completely from their premises by posting clear, specific public notice.

The bill creates a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $2,500 fine and/or up to a year in jail, if a person is found to be consuming alcohol while in possession of a handgun. An amendment sponsored by Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) would revoke a permit holder’s permit for three years if he or she were found to be intoxicated while in possession of a handgun.

Possession of a handgun in an establishment that bans guns would result in a $500 fine.

“This bill will lower the barrier to law-abiding citizens to carry their firearms during the course of a normal day, and will give them an opportunity to defend themselves if necessary,” Jackson said. “The record of safety and responsibility among millions of handgun carry permit holders across the country is simply undeniable. Law-abiding citizens should not be disarmed. The only people who like that idea are criminals.”

The House version of the bill is expected to reach a floor vote soon.

Business and Economy Liberty and Justice

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.

Business and Economy Liberty and Justice News

Guns-in-Restaurants Do-Over Advances

A bill to rewrite the law that allows gun permit holders to carry their weapons in bars and restaurants passed a House subcommittee Wednesday and is now headed for consideration by the Judiciary Committee.

Under the law passed last year by the General Assembly, permit holders are allowed to bring a gun into certain establishments that serve alcohol, so long as the business owner has not posted a sign banning firearms from the premises.

The current law was struck down last year by a Davidson County judge who declared it unconstitutionally vague.

While that decision is being challenged, bill sponsor Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, hopes rewriting the law now will render the appeal moot.

“This changes what has to be posted” by business owners who wish to legally prohibit people from carrying weapons on their property, he said. “(The law) was very vague and unclear earlier.”

This new bill, he said, “makes it uniform.”

Dan Haskell, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Hospitality Association, was the only person who spoke against the measure during the committee hearing.

“Last year, you passed a bill to allow carrying handguns in places where food was served in context with alcoholic beverages,” he said. “This bill permits you to carry your handgun any place where beer or alcohol is served for consumption in the premises – every bar, every roadhouse, every beer joint in the state. This is a lot larger bill.”

“In the hospitality business, the last thing we want to do is put a sign on the doors about guns,” he continued. “It doesn’t seem very hospitable to us. In large, complicated facilities like an Opryland Hotel or in a convention center, you’ve got hundreds of entrances and exits, all of which would have to have this sign posted on them.”

Haskell also said the bill “can be read to say those who have liquor licenses are no longer permitted to post.”

Todd downplayed Haskell’s concerns. “This bill is very clear — clear on what the judge ruled,” he said.

And opponents of the law are “not going to be happy with any bill — no matter what it says,” he added.

Other committee members voiced agreement with Todd, who said those given legal protection to carry weapons under his bill “are responsible gun owners.”

“I have yet to talk to an officer on the street who is not supportive of this legislation,” said Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, who is a retired sheriff. “I have never in 20 years had a problem with a gun permit holder.”

Added Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville, “The honest citizens of Tennessee should not be rendered defenseless.”

Currently, someone who violates the law is guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, a person’s license to carry a gun can be revoked.

Todd also agreed to a request by the subcommittee’s chairman, Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, to consider increasing the penalties for violating the law in the future.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ben West, D-Hermitage announced that he would not pursue passage of a bill to grant permit holders permission to carry a firearm in public parks and other public recreational facilities, nor will he continue pushing a bill this session that would allow a permit holder to carry their weapon on school grounds as long as it remained the permit holder’s vehicle and is not handled.