Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Restaurant lawsuit amended to say gun law confusing

By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • July 7, 2009 A restaurant owner battling a new law that would allow guns into eateries added another argument to his lawsuit Monday, saying the measure would create confusion for gun owners and police officers. The law, adopted by the General Assembly last month over Gov. Phil Bredesen's veto, will allow more than 200,000 handgun carry permit owners to bring their weapons into restaurants and bars, effective July 14. The law says patrons carrying handguns can't consume alcohol. In Tennessee, places that serve liquor by the drink are technically classified and licensed as restaurants because they also must serve food as their primary purpose under the law. Restaurateur Randy Rayburn and a group of restaurant employees and handgun carry permit holders are arguing the new law is "unconstitutionally vague." "It is a Class A misdemeanor for a permit holder to carry a gun into a place that serves alcohol that is not exempted as a restaurant," the amended lawsuit says. "Permit holders will have no notice or way to determine if an establishment is a restaurant or a bar (whether its primary purpose is serving meals) as there is no distinction by licensing laws or notice." David Randolph Smith, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission sometimes fines establishments whose food sales drop below 50 percent, but it generally doesn't shut them down. "How do you know?" Smith said. "Technically, that wouldn't be a restaurant under the carry law." The plaintiffs also are claiming the law would create a public nuisance threatening the safety of the public and violating the constitutional rights of restaurant/bar owners, patrons and employees. John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, which pushed for the law, has called the lawsuit misguided. A court hearing on the matter has been rescheduled from today to 1:30 p.m. Monday in Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman's court. Next PageundefinedPrevious Page

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