Legislation that would allow restaurant patrons to carry handguns where alcohol is sold — as long as they have a carry permit — has passed every hurdle it has come up against. The only real question seems to be whether Gov. Phil Bredesen will sign it into law when it reaches his desk.
The bill, which has widespread bipartisan support, is sponsored in the state House by Republican Rep. Curry Todd and in the state Senate by Democratic Sen. Doug Jackson. While their bills were different, lawmakers in the two houses have reached agreement on the provisions and the revised bill is scheduled to go before both bodies Thursday.
Agreed upon in conference committee is that that the majority of the language in the Senate bill will go forward.
That means that there will be no exemptions for establishments that only serve patrons 21 and over and that the rule prohibiting people from carrying firearms into restaurants that serve alcohol between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. is gone. The only language that remained from the House version is that establishments can post a sign prohibiting licensed gun holders with carry permits from bringing a firearm onto their premises.
The guessing game on Capitol Hill right now is whether Bredesen will sign it into law, let it become law without his signature or veto the bill. Odds are high that any Bredesen veto would be overridden, but his actions could have bearing down the road on his political future.
Prohibited by law from running for a third term as governor, Bredesen could stay active in politics by either an executive appointment after he leaves office from President Barack Obama or run for the U.S. Senate down the road. His actions on a lightning-rod issue like this one will have a bearing on those possibilities.
Vetoing such legislation would probably make it easier for Washington, D.C. Democrats to support him should future appointment consideration come from Obama. Bredesen was assailed by more liberal elements in his party when he was being considered for the position as Health and Human Services Secretary for Obama.
In D.C. circles, a veto here wouldn’t raise an eyebrow among conservatives but would inspire the left to go after him again should he sign the bill into law or let it become law without his signature.
On the flip side, if he has any desire to run for U.S. Senate in the next 10 years, a veto would hurt him in rural areas of the state.
There is no winning any statewide campaign without significant support from rural communities. While the metropolitan areas as a whole seem to have a distaste for this legislation, they would get over Bredesen signing it into law.
But anyone who tells you for sure they know what Bredesen will do is really just taking a shot in the dark.