A group of Metro Council members hoping Nashville could take advantage of a loophole and ban guns from bars and restaurants got the news late last week their proposed ordinance was on shaky legal footing.
At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard said he would make a motion to withdraw the bill at the June 16 Metro Council meeting. Tygard’s decision came after the Metro legal department told him the ordinance was pre-empted by a 1986 state law that took away the right of local governments to outlaw firearms.
Tygard, along with Council members Megan Barry, Jerry Maynard and Carter Todd, filed the legislation last week. The proposed ordinance would have outlawed firearms from bars and restaurants, by making it a condition of a Metro beer permit.
But, according to Tygard, Metro Legal said Council could not take action that limited guns. The state legislature passed a law, initially vetoed by Gov. Phil Bredesen, that allows guns in bars and restaurants, provided the patron has a carry permit and isn’t consuming alcoholic beverages.
“I was willing to let the public debate and the panel discussions and citizen input to come in to see what the restaurants and citizens had to say about it,” Tygard said. “Without the legal grounds to do so that doesn’t make much sense.”
The ruling by Metro Legal also jeopardized another bill, which would have banned guns from Metro parks.
The 1986 state law said, unless local governments already had a law on the books, they could not ban firearms. Metro had a loosely written law forbidding firearms in the urban services district, but the law did not apply to those legally allowed to carry.
Tygard pointed out restaurants could still ban firearms from their establishments, although enforcing a posted sign would be difficult he conceded.
In the meantime, Mayor Karl Dean remained in opposition to guns in bars and restaurant and said his office was not yet finished with the issue.
“Allowing guns in our restaurants and bars is simply a bad idea,” Dean said. “I fully support the governor’s veto. My office is looking into a way to address this in Nashville.”
Had the proposed ordinance gotten the green light from Metro Legal, it seemed to have support on Council. Earlier this year, Council passed a memorializing resolution opposing the state legislature’s efforts to allow firearms in parks. That resolution passed with a 27-13 vote.
There was no word Monday on the status of the guns in parks legislation.