A new guns-in-bars bill — this one aimed at overcoming the objections of a Nashville judge — cleared its first hurdle Wednesday in the state House over the objections of the Tennessee Hospitality Association, which claimed it would hurt business.
The legislation, adopted on a voice vote by the House Judiciary Criminal Practice and Procedure Committee, would allow the state's 270,000 handgun carry permit holders to go armed into any establishment selling alcohol in Tennessee unless the businesses post signs at every entrance banning weapons.
The legislature adopted a similar law last year and easily overrode a veto by Gov. Phil Bredesen. It allowed guns in places selling food and alcohol. But Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman struck it down as unconstitutionally vague, saying it was too hard to tell whether an establishment served enough food to qualify under the law for gun holders to enter.
“The bill last year allowed carrying in places that serve food and alcohol. This bill allows carrying of weapons in every restaurant, every bar, every roadhouse in the state. It’s a lot larger bill than what you passed last year,” said Dan Haskell, the Hospitality Association’s general counsel. “This bill would require posting at every door, and in the hospitality industry, the last thing we want to have to do is post notices about guns at the door. It doesn’t seem hospitable to us.”
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, said: “This bill is very clear. They aren't going to be happy with any bill."