Monday, April 26, 2010

Compromise bill on guns in restaurants now in doubt

Rep. Tindell challenges lawmakers to keep word By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • April 26, 2010 A compromise to allow guns in restaurants, but not bars, is in doubt amid questions from lawmakers and Second Amendment advocates as the measure moves to full votes in the state House and Senate. A House committee last week approved Rep. Harry Tindell's amendment to a guns-in-bars measure that would allow permit holders to carry guns into establishments that serve alcohol, but force any establishment with less than 50 percent food sales to post signs banning firearms. Tindell said legislators should keep their word from a year ago, when they said they would deliver a bill that would allow guns in restaurants, but not bars. "We're really breaking our promise if we don't do this," Tindell said. The legislature passed a guns-in-bars law last year, but a Nashville judge ruled it unconstitutionally vague. The law was challenged by Nashville restaurateur Randy Rayburn, among others. Rayburn said that if other issues such as signage requirements were ad-dressed, he would not challenge the bill as long as Tindell's amendment was passed. But with a full House vote possible in the next week, the compromise has faced an array of questions. "The proposal is poorly crafted and does not achieve the objective that (Tindell) apparently was seeking," said John Harris, executive director with the Tennessee Firearms Association. "It also has serious unintended consequences based upon on what was being said about it in the committee hearing." Enforcement is an issue Harris pointed out that Tindell's proposal would inadvertently apply to various other establishments that serve alcohol, such as hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and art galleries. Sen. Doug Jackson, a Dickson Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill in the state Senate, also questioned whether Tindell's proposal had any enforcement mechanism if an establishment failed to post but didn't meet the 50 percent food service requirement. "I think we want to come to the best law we can develop that provides for the Second Amendment rights of citizens and at the same time provides public safety and something that works well," Jackson said. "Mechanically, I don't know how (Tindell's amendment) would work." Collierville Republican Rep. Curry Todd proposed a bill earlier this session that would allow permit holders to carry guns into establishments that serve alcohol. Owners have the right to post signs banning guns, and anyone carrying a weapon is forbidden from drinking under Todd's proposal. "I think it's a near certainty the bill is going to pass," Tindell said. "The question is going to be in what form? There are a lot of people who know it has a chance, and they're going to take a purist's view that there shouldn't be any restrictions. "My problem with that is that's not what we promised the people of Tennessee last year." Nate Rau can be reached at 615-259-8094 or

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