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Guns-in-Bars Bill Going to the Guv

by John Klein Wilson on May 5, 2010

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.”

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