Monday, June 8, 2009

Critics blast Metro gun proposal

State law sponsor says effort to change beer law is illegal By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • June 6, 2009 Opposition to a measure to prohibit firearms in bars and restaurants that serve beer has begun to mount as supporters filed the measure Friday. Metro Councilman Robert Duvall said he will try to rally holders of handgun permits to resist an ordinance introduced by five council members to thwart a new state law that allows guns in restaurants that serve alcohol. Meanwhile, the state law's principal sponsor in the legislature said he believes the proposed ordinance would be illegal. Opponents began their resistance to the Metro proposal even before it was filed, saying it would strip gun owners of their right to carry their weapons, as long as they aren't drinking alcohol. "All this (state law) does is give people back the rights that they already have," Duvall said. "I believe it's morally wrong when we sit down, when the state has passed a law … and now we want to circumvent it with some phony baloney." At issue is a proposal by Metro Councilman Charlie Tygard and four other council members to keep handguns outside most bars and restaurants in Nashville by using Metro's authority to regulate beer sales. They propose adding a ban on guns to the approximately 1,500 permits to sell beer that have been issued in the city. Establishments that serve only wine and liquor would not be covered by the rule because the state government regulates sales of those beverages. "I'm concerned about the general safety of everyone," said Councilman Erik Cole, a sponsor. "The constituent contacts that I've had think that our current law is adequate." The other sponsors are Megan Barry, Jerry Maynard and Carter Todd. Gov. Phil Bredesen, whose veto of the guns-in-restaurants law was overridden by the state legislature, said he would support local regulation of the issue. "I believe counties ought to have that kind of control, if they want to have it," he said. "I think (the state law) is just a bad idea, and if there's a way in a Davidson County or a Shelby County to deal with it in another way, I think they should try to do it." The proposal is being advanced after final passage this week of a state law that allows handgun permit holders to carry their weapons into any eating and drinking establishment. Until now, permit holders could carry guns only into restaurants that don't serve alcohol. Is the proposal legal?Several lawyers have reviewed Tygard's proposal and said that it is legal, but on Friday, one of the state law's main backers, Dickson Sen. Doug Jackson, disagreed. He cited another section of Tennessee law that bars cities and counties from regulating "the transfer, ownership, possession or transportation of firearms." "The proposed ordinance is clearly not the correct approach," Jackson said. "State law presently gives the restaurant owner the choice to prohibit handguns by posting proper signage." The Metro proposal is scheduled for a first reading at the council's next regular meeting, June 16. The state law goes into effect July 14, but already several Nashville restaurants have posted signs asking that gun owners leave their weapons outside. Some owners say they also support a Metro ban on guns in restaurants. The state law "brings no safety to me, my employees or my customers," said Randy Rayburn, owner of the Sunset Grill, Midtown Cafe and Cabana restaurants. "The unintentional consequence of this will be shootings."

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