Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Guns-in-bars supporters will fight Bredesen's veto

Bredesen says second version is more expansive, dangerous By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • May 19, 2010 Backers of a bill to open all bars and restaurants to handguns said they plan to press ahead after Gov. Phil Bredesen vetoed the legislation on Tuesday. The state Senate could take up next week an override vote on the bill, which would let people with handgun carry permits take their weapons into any establishment that serves alcohol, including bars, restaurants and sports venues. The override vote would be the second in as many years for the proposal, and it would come as time is running out for the Tennessee General Assembly before it adjourns for the year. The bill's sponsors quickly began to gear up for another override push Tuesday afternoon, after Bredesen's office sent Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey a letter reiterating his opposition to the legislation. Bredesen referred to a previous version of the legislation that he vetoed last year — a measure that eventually was passed into law. A Nashville judge later struck it down as too vague. Bredesen said this year's bill is worse than the first. "A successful court challenge to last year's actions provided the General Assembly with a second opportunity to reconsider and adopt a more responsible approach to this issue," Bredesen wrote. "Instead, the General Assembly has essentially re-passed last year's legislation in an even more expansive and dangerous form." Supporters of this year's legislation say it is clearer because it allows gun permit holders to carry their handguns into any establishment that serves alcohol, unless owners have posted signs explicitly banning guns at the entrance. They also said this year's bill tightens penalties for drinking while carrying a gun. Bredesen was traveling overseas Tuesday. A spokeswoman said he had no comment beyond the letter to Ramsey. Majority needed The bill's sponsors, Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, and Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, would need only simple majorities in both chambers to override Bredesen's veto. They would appear to have enough support, as the House passed the legislation earlier this year by a 66-31 vote and the Senate by a 23-9 vote. "I've challenged opponents of this legislation to show me statistics, in any of the states that this right has been substantiated, of an increase in crime or harm to public safety, and no one has met that challenge," Jackson said. "It's an emotional issue. … But the legislature has been voting based on the facts, not emotions." The override campaign would come, however, as the legislature is winding down business for the year. The Senate could not hold a vote until late next week without waiving its rules; the House could not take it up until still later. John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, said he was confident the bill would pass again. "I think this is a temporarily setback," he said. "To do this knowing that it's going to be overridden … that's the definition of futile." Will Cheek, a Nashville attorney who worked on last year's court challenge, agreed that an override probably would succeed. This year's bill was meant to be less susceptible to a court challenge, and Cheek said this measure doesn't have the same problems as the one passed last year. "The NRA (National Rifle Association) is too powerful, particularly in an election year, for legislators to do the right thing," he said. "The governor is sticking to his principles. It's symbolic, but it's also consistent with what he believes."

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