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TN: Skirmish shapes up over veto of right-to-carry bill
« on: June 01, 2009, 11:26:50 AM »
Tennessee: Skirmish shapes up over veto of right-to-carry bill

Supporters, foes fix sights on firearms in restaurants

By Richard Locker (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Saturday, May 30, 2009

NASHVILLE -- Both sides in the legislative battle over guns in restaurants serving alcohol mobilized Friday to urge lawmakers to either override or uphold Gov. Phil Bredesen's veto of the bill.

The National Rifle Association and Tennessee Firearms Association sent "action alerts" to their members to contact legislators to support overriding the veto. NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox said gun owners are "shocked and disappointed" by the governor's move Thursday.

An e-mail by Firearms Association executive director John Harris took the extra step of asking his members to review news photos and videos of the governor's veto ceremony to "help us identify the police chiefs, officers and district attorneys who stood with Bredesen. We want to compile a list of their names, districts and supervisors," which he said would be posted on the TFA Web site.

Harris said Friday the message wasn't a threat, and "if they perceive it that way, they're worried about their jobs." He said the request is to compile information members can use to question local officials about the officers' foray into public policy or whether to vote in the future for elected officials who support the veto.

The bill allows Tennessee's 220,000 handgun-carry permit holders, and millions more from states whose permits are recognized by Tennessee, to take guns into restaurants and other places that serve alcohol if they aren't drinking themselves.

The Tennessee Hospitality Association, which represents restaurants and hotels, and some local associations encouraged their members to contact lawmakers in support of sustaining the veto.

"It is now our turn to step to the plate and drive home the point -- this is a bad bill and the veto must be upheld," the Hospitality Association told members by e-mail.

Legislative sponsors of the bill, Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, and Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, predicted successful override votes next week. It takes only a majority of each chamber -- 50 in the House and 17 in the Senate -- to override. The bill passed the House 70-26 and the Senate 26-7.

Memphis Restaurant Association president Mike Miller, who owns Patrick's Steaks & Spirits, said the local group is notifying its members how to contact state officials. "As an association, by and large we are against this legislation but there are a few dissenters."

Miller said most restaurateurs oppose the bill for two reasons: "Liability certainly gets pushed to the owners. By allowing guns where alcohol is served, it certainly increases the chances of a gun-related incident or accident.

"And since the bill allows us to post (signs notifying patrons that no guns are allowed), it puts us in a position to have to choose which groups of people we're going to alienate."

The Memphis City Council's public safety committee is set to consider a resolution Tuesday encouraging owners of restaurants and bars to post signs banning guns in their businesses.

Tennessee Republican Party chairman Robin Smith also weighed in, contending Bredesen's veto "is a rejection of the desires of most Tennesseans ... a slap in the face to law-abiding citizens across the Volunteer State who have carry permits and the wrong decision especially in light of Tennessee's rising violent crime rate."

"Allowing certified, trained citizens with carry permits to carry their weapons more places in public would add a measure of protection and defense against violent crime and criminals," she said.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin, Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell, Nashville Police Chief Ronal Serpas and other law enforcement professionals at the veto ceremony disagreed.

Godwin said the eight-hour training course required for a carry permit is "not enough," and the process relies on the applicant to declare his own "mental state," with no independent psychological review.

"What they've done is they've passed this and they've put officers and citizens in jeopardy of bad things happening," he said. "I think you're going to see the results of this fairly quickly."

-- Richard Locker: (615) 255-4923

How they voted

Votes on the conference committee report for HB962, the final version of the bill as it passed the General Assembly. A yes vote is in favor of the bill; a no vote is against it.

Representatives 'Yes'

Barker (D-Union City)
Coley (R-Bartlett)
Dennis (R-Savannah)
Eldridge (R-Jackson)
Halford (R-Dyer)*
Kelsey (R-Germantown)
Lollar (R-Bartlett)
Maddox (D-Dresden)
McDaniel (R-Lexington)
McManus (R-Cordova)
Rich (R-Somerville)
Todd (R-Collierville)

Representatives 'No'

Camper (D-Memphis)
Cooper (D-Memphis)*
DeBerry J (D-Memphis)
DeBerry L (D-Memphis)
Fitzhugh (D-Ripley)
Hardaway (D-Memphis)
Jones U (D-Memphis)
Kernell (D-Memphis)
Miller (D-Memphis)*
Naifeh (D-Covington)
Richardson (D-Memphis)
Shaw (D-Bolivar)
Towns (D-Memphis)
Turner L (D-Memphis)

Senators 'Yes'

Finney L (D-Jackson)
Ford (D-Memphis)
Gresham (R-Somerville)
Herron (D-Dresden)
Norris (R-Collierville)
Stanley (R-Germantown)
Tate (D-Memphis)*

Senators 'No'

Kyle (D-Memphis)
Marrero (D-Memphis)

* denotes members' votes as bill originally passed because they are not listed as voting on the conference committee report.

Courtesy of The Commercial Appeal
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