Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nashville drops bid to keep guns out of restaurants

By Michael Cass and Colby Sledge • THE TENNESSEAN • June 10, 2009 A Metro Council proposal to ban guns in Nashville bars and restaurants that serve beer will be withdrawn after city attorneys said it probably would be ruled illegal, two councilmen said. A group of council members had hoped to thwart a new state law allowing handgun carry permit holders to take their weapons into bars and restaurants in Tennessee. But Metro lawyers have determined the state's firearms statute supersedes the city's beer permit ordinance, which the council members had hoped to revise. "A court more likely than not would say it was the intent of the legislature to pre-empt our ability to do anything about it," Metro Law Director Sue Cain said Tuesday. Councilman Charlie Tygard said he'll withdraw the bill at the council's next regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday. "These things happen, and I think based on the interest from both sides, there's a lot of misconceptions," he said. "It would have been good to put experts in the room, have a good debate and a panel discussion … and then be able to make an informed decision. Unless something changes, that's not going to happen." Councilman Carter Todd, a co-sponsor, said, "It would have been a nice thing to do, but it didn't work out." The General Assembly voted last month to allow handgun carry permit holders to take their weapons into restaurants and bars. Gov. Phil Bredesen vetoed the bill, arguing that guns and alcohol don't mix well, but the House and Senate easily overrode the veto last week. Attorney and former Councilman Adam Dread then proposed that Metro add a restriction to beer permits to prohibit businesses with permits from allowing anyone with a handgun inside. The new law does allow restaurant and bar owners to ban guns from their establishments. But some people feel a proliferation of "No Guns" signs would cause tourists to think the city is full of firearms. An emotional issue Todd, an attorney, said he was glad Metro's lawyers had made their opinion known. The opinion — which Cain did not put in writing — should steer the city away from a potential lawsuit, Todd said. "This is a very emotional issue for people on both sides," he said. "The worst thing you can do as a councilman is to get Metro government sued." Council members Megan Barry and Jerry Maynard also have filed legislation that would opt Metro out of a new state law allowing handguns in state and local parks. The law gives cities an opportunity to continue banning firearms in their parks, and the council bill, up for a first vote Tuesday, would do that.

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