Wide open guns-in-bars bill headed to governor’s desk

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 7:35pm

A wide open guns-in-bars bill cleared the state House Wednesday and went to the governor’s desk, allowing Tennessee’s 270,000 handgun-carry permit holders to take their weapons into honky-tonks, nightclubs and any place else that serves booze.

The House voted 66-31 for the bill after a contentious debate in which even one longtime National Rifle Association supporter complained, “I’m sick and tired of talking about guns.”

Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville, said he’s such a big NRA supporter that he bought lifetime memberships for his children. But in a remarkable speech, he accused legislators of knuckling under to the NRA’s demands for fear of losing the powerful group’s support in November’s elections.

“Essentially, the NRA is saying to us if you don’t support carrying guns in bars we will not endorse you but will, in fact, oppose you,” McCord said. “This line of reasoning is just bordering on lunacy.”

McCord, who announced early in the session that he won’t run for re-election, conceded he might have stayed quiet if he hoped to return to the House next year.

“I’m not running again,” he said. “You can tell because I’m sitting here criticizing the NRA. … [But] it makes me wonder, what line will we not cross for the NRA? I’m just curious. At what point do we say this is too much?”

But Rep. Henry Fincher, D-Cookeville, said he favored the bill not because of NRA pressure but because he believes the state’s licensed gun carriers can be trusted to go armed into bars and will actually make them safer places.

“We have made a choice in this state to trust our handgun-carry permit holders,” Fincher said. “When we draw imaginary lines in the ground and say we trust you here but we don’t trust you there, we are doing nothing but creating a pleasing fiction. Gun-free zones are a pleasing fiction, Mr. Speaker. Columbine High School was a gun-free zone.
Killers don’t care about these imaginary lines.”

Over Gov. Phil Bredesen’s veto, the legislature passed a guns-in-bars law last year. It allowed permit holders to go armed into restaurants with liquor-by-the-drink licenses whose principle business is food service. That was an attempt to allow guns in restaurants that happen to serve alcohol, but keep them out of beer joints.

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman struck down that law as unconstitutionally vague because permit holders had no way of knowing whether the business derived more of its revenue from food or alcohol sales.

Lawmakers fixed that problem with this new legislation, which makes no distinction between drinking establishments. Any business still can ban guns by posting signs. In addition, handgun permit holders are prohibited from drinking while they are armed.

The House passed the Senate version of the bill, tabling an amendment to allow permit holders to take guns into any place with a liquor or beer license if the owner doesn't post signs banning them. The Senate passed the bill last week.

27 Comments on this post:

By: bfra on 5/6/10 at 3:44

BIG mistake!

By: dargent7 on 5/6/10 at 5:27

Why do these "carriers" feel the uncontrollable urge to go to a bar that they cannot drink in? Keep the peace? Protect their family from all the violence that breaks out?
Tenn. should focus it's enormous brain power on figuring out how to keep schools OPEN during the winter and now when there's a flood. Being one of the dumbest states in the Union isn't anything to be proud of. Oh, but we allow guns in bars?

By: Jagman on 5/6/10 at 6:14

Why go into a bar if you can't drink? To show that you are a big man with a gun. These people need to get a life. I have a carry permit but see NO reason to take a weapon into a bar.

By: Loner on 5/6/10 at 6:24

Nothing about this law makes sense, from the public interest standpoint. This is all about a powerful lobby flexing its muscle in gun-friendly territory. It's all about lawmakers with no brains and no balls.

Good points, D7. Why go into a bar if you are not going to drink, but just parade around with a side arm?

Will hard core shootists frequent TN bars, trolling for drunks, to antagonize and then shoot? Could be a new American sport, I suppose - Bar Fly Hunting......a great reality show, for sure.

By: Loner on 5/6/10 at 6:36

When I visited Nashville, in 2004, I felt safe in the bars. I remember Tootsies especially. With a law like this in place, I do not think that I'd feel so safe or have as much fun in Nashville's honky tonks. Watching armed, sober gunman strut around the place, looking for trouble, is not my idea of fun.

If Nashville is tired of tourism, then go ahead and enact this foolish law. You won't need a new Convention Center once the word gets around about guns in Nashville's bars. The tax-paying citizens will get stuck with yet another ill-conceived white elephant to pay for.

By: pswindle on 5/6/10 at 8:11

What in the world is wrong with the GOP? TN is going to be the wild west of the 21st century. We do not need alcohol around drunks or children. I can't beleive that Tennessee's values have reached this level of low. Will the churches go along with this, since they have taken over the politics in TN?

By: TNdoc on 5/6/10 at 8:24

Remember, they tried to pass the law excluding bars, but the courts killed it. The problem is that it is hard to define a bar, I guess, and the law needs to be clear. It is illegal to commit a crime with the weapon anywhere, so I think this law just makes it clear that it is not where you have the gun but what you do with it that's the problem. I am a permit holder and never frequent these places, but I would like to be able to carry it to restaurants that happen to serve alcohol.

I really like the quote above: “We have made a choice in this state to trust our handgun-carry permit holders,” Fincher said. “When we draw imaginary lines in the ground and say we trust you here but we don’t trust you there, we are doing nothing but creating a pleasing fiction. Gun-free zones are a pleasing fiction, Mr. Speaker. Columbine High School was a gun-free zone. Killers don’t care about these imaginary lines.”

Laws should clearly define what is legal and what is not. Laws should avoid "pleasing fictions". The facts are that murders have gone down in the last few years in spite of a massive increase in the number of carry permit holders in Tennessee. Enough hysteria already.

By: EquinsuOcha on 5/6/10 at 8:45

People have been carrying guns in bars for years.........HCP holders can now do it without breaking the law and they donot pull their gun unless it's the last resort. This law in no way makes a bar less safe .

By: Tull on 5/6/10 at 8:56

This same type law has been passed in numerous states and they have not had a problem with "Watching armed, sober gunman strut around the place, looking for trouble" or "To show that you are a big man with a gun" or "TN is going to be the wild west of the 21st century". There just is not any proof that this will be a problem.

By: jsnap on 5/6/10 at 2:37

Anyone with common sense knows that guns in bars are just going to create a problem. To not realize this is burying your head in the sand. Are you saying that bars are so dangerous that you have to have a gun for protection? I would suggest we get a list of those who voted for this and see that they are not sent back to take orders from the NRA.

By: TNdoc on 5/6/10 at 3:07

Criminals with guns in restaurants that serve alcohol are a problem, and they will carry guns there anyway, legal or not. Law-abiding, trained citizens without a criminal record will leave them home. The Luby's restaurant in Killeen Texas in 1991 cannot be considered a dangerous place, in general, but 23 people were shot to death by a nut case there, and if one of the people in the restaurant had a pistol, it might have been fewer. You carry a tire iron in your car in case of a flat, women carry mace, you buckle your seatbelt in case you crash. That doesn't mean you are looking for problems, just being prepared.

The NRA has some extreme views, I agree, but this one makes sense to me, especially if the courts can't decide what a bar is.

By: Loner on 5/6/10 at 7:53

Hey Doc, do you wear a crash helmet when driving your car or truck? That's a less extreme precaution than packing heat, just in case you get into a Luby's restaurant situation.

The odds of getting into a motor vehicle accident are much higher than the odds of getting involved in a nutjob shoot-out situation. Think about that when you get into your car or truck, TNdoc. Wearing a crash helmet in your car makes more sense than carrying a side arm; but you don't want to look silly in traffic, who would?

Carrying a pistol is actually sillier looking and statistically sillier than somebody wearing a crash helmet when driving their automobile.

By: liquidators1 on 5/7/10 at 5:24

Sigmund Freud associates retarded sexual and emotional development not with gun ownership, but with fear and loathing of weapons so now we know!

By: madden on 5/7/10 at 7:42

freud also couldn't keep his cigar out of his mouth, so now, WE KNOW!

By: localboy on 5/7/10 at 8:08


By: TNdoc on 5/7/10 at 8:49

I know nobody's opinion is ever changed by this kind of exchange, however in a car I buy one with air bags and a seat belt, which accomplish the same end as your "crash helmet", but have never needed either one to date in 40 years of driving. I don't think these make me "look silly". I would certainly never ride a motorcycle without a helmet, and was actually thankful for having one on when I crashed my motorcycle. This also does not make me "look silly".

Buying a car with explosive charges in the dashboard and steering column is not that much different from having a pistol in the glove compartment or on your person: It just sits there until it is needed. You teach your kids not to mess with it and keep it locked up when you're not there.

We all have 10 inch knives in our kitchens and axes in our garages, but they are not usually used to stab or hack people and you teach kids not to play with them, and yet we don't talk about outlawing knives and axes. A 4-inch pocket knife is just as lethal as a gun, yet it is allowed in restaurants and bars. Look at the Chinese nut-cases who stabbed dozens of children recently. It is not the weapon it is the crazy person using it to harm others.

Finally, "looking silly" is not the issue, and neither is looking macho. It is not about appearances as you suggest. I think you'd be surprised how many of the 300,000 law abiding, permit-holding Tennesseans are carrying concealed weapons right now and you'd never know. That's the way it is and the way it should be.

By: gdiafante on 5/7/10 at 9:08

If you think you need to be armed to go somewhere, you probably shouldn't be going there.

I've been going to restaurants around here for 40 years, never once felt the need to be armed. This is gun-nut hysteria. Nothing more.

By: TNdoc on 5/7/10 at 9:29

I have driven a car for 40 years and always put my seatbelt on. Never had to use it or the airbags. You never know, though.

There's hysteria on both sides of this issue. Go ahead and drive without a seatbelt and ride your motorcycle without a helmet. No problem, but not me. My grandfather wouldn't wear a seatbelt because he thought it was unsafe. I disagree. I am not asking and wouldn't want you to carry a gun, if it scares you so much. Just don't tell me what to do.

By: EquinsuOcha on 5/7/10 at 10:17

(QUOTE) By: gdiafante on 5/7/10 at 10:08
If you think you need to be armed to go somewhere, you probably shouldn't be going there.

I've been going to restaurants around here for 40 years, never once felt the need to be armed. This is gun-nut hysteria. Nothing more.(QUOTE)

Another fine example of idiotic liberal logic

By: gdiafante on 5/7/10 at 10:30

I'm sorry ocha, so you have evidence to the contrary? Could you tell me the date and time I felt the need to be armed?


By: GUARDIAN on 5/7/10 at 11:18

Well I see the socialist gun haters are foaming at the mouth again. LMAO I don't drink nor have I ever but if I stop by a business that sells booze but doesn't sell food to see a friend or on some business why should I or anyone else that has a permit have to lock our weapon in our vehicle. I've taught permit classes for over 15 years and advanced weapon classes for over 30 years so don't try to feed me the BS. Permit holders are not allowed to have even one sip of booze or they are in violation of the law and will lose their permit. Many states have this same law with no problems. You socialist gun haters who are against the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Rule of Law need to stick your long pointy noses into someone Else's business or try minding your own.

By: gdiafante on 5/7/10 at 12:17

"Socialist gun haters"...


By: idgaf on 5/9/10 at 6:43

Lets not forget the genisis of this debate the idiots didn't make a distinction between bars and resturants that serve alcohol.

They should pass this bill, make the distinction then modify the law to please the scardy cat liberals that only want the bad guys to carry. (can't have your drug dealer going around without protection can you?)

By: dargent7 on 5/10/10 at 5:56

gD makes the best point: If you're so scared and feel so threatened to have to carry a gun into a place of business to "enjoy one's self", either your brain dead or shouldn't be there. Stay home.

By: EquinsuOcha on 5/10/10 at 8:08

Or if you are scared of law abiding citizens carrying because they will be now that this law is passed ,stay home.

By: localboy on 5/10/10 at 11:27

Who says we can't all get along? There seems to be a consensus brewing here - everybody should just stay home.

By: T. Payne on 5/10/10 at 2:49

Hell I know I can't be trusted to bring a gun into a bar. I'm always shitfaced. I'll probably end up shooting my penis off by mistake and then no one would want me at all.