published Friday, June 5th, 2009

Tennessee: Bar owners dismayed by gun bill


by Adam Crisp

Chip McKeldin doesn’t want to frisk customers or install metal detectors at his newly opened Deluxe Grill and Tap on Market Street.

But he’s not sure how to handle the state’s new law that says those with permits to carry loaded handguns can take them — concealed — into bars and restaurants.

Owners of such establishments have the right to post a sign barring weapons, but what good does that do, Mr. McKeldin asked.

“You can post a sign, but how would you really know if they have a gun?” he asked. “It seems like we’d have to be like the clubs in New York, frisking everyone, running a portal with metal detectors.”

The new bill passed the House and Senate in early May, but Gov. Phil Bredesen vetoed it on May 28. Legislators quickly vowed to override the veto, which they did in the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday.

The bill goes into effect on July 14.

One local bar owner said he’s only vaguely familiar with the provision but was shocked to hear that it became law.

“It just blows my mind that it’s even gotten to this point, where people are actually discussing the need to bring a gun into a bar,” said Dustin Choate, an owner of Tremont Tavern on Hixson Pike on the North Shore. “I don’t know what we will do, if anything, to address it.”

Other bar owners say they already search their patrons with the knowledge that guns, liquor and partying don’t mix.

“We search them anyway,” said Randy Braswell, owner of Deep Blue nightclub on Brainerd Road. “It’s just been our practice since we opened to search people to make sure there are no types of weapons — guns, knives, whatever. We don’t want anyone getting shot or stabbed.”

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Tim Barber Chip McKeldin, 30, owner of Deluxe Grill and Tap, leans on one of the tables in his Market Street establishment. Mr. McKeldin is concerned about who might be carrying a gun into his bar.

Chattanooga Police Chief Freeman Cooper, an outspoken opponent of the new law, said he wasn’t surprised the measure was overridden by the Legislature, but now he says he is certain his officers will have to deal with more calls as bar patrons pull or lose weapons in crowded bars and clubs.

“The biggest portion of the problem falls on the shoulders of law enforcement, restaurant owners or bar or club managers,” Chief Cooper said. “Who’s going to enforce this? Who is going to take action if one of these people is drinking? Unfortunately, I think law enforcement will be brought in on the end of that when an incident occurs.”

The National Rifle Association, which lobbied hard for the bill, said its passage and the overrides this week are a vote of trust for concealed-carry permit holders.

“Until today, Tennessee law has prevented right-to-carry permit holders from having the chance to defend themselves from criminal attack while in a restaurant,” said Chris W. Cox, NRA chief lobbyist, in a written statement. “This veto override proves Tennessee legislators trust permit holders and understand this is a common sense measure.

The bill “will allow permit holders the opportunity to protect their own lives and the lives of those they love,” he said.

Chief Cooper doesn’t see it that way. He said most people aren’t prepared to use a handgun as a self-defense tool. The 40-hour training required for Tennessee permit holders simply doesn’t equip them to respond if a life-and-death situation crops up at a bar or restaurant, he said.

“What (the average person) doesn’t realize is that those incidents — fights, disorders, hold-ups — occur in seconds, not minutes or hours as depicted on TV,” Chief Cooper said. “Law enforcement officers train for hundreds of hours to be prepared in those incidents.”

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
brandon83 said...

"Currently, 37 states have similar legislation."

Someone please find stats where this law has been a problem in those 37 other states. Hey restaurant and bar owners, wake up! Guns have already been in your establishments forever, but in the hands of criminals and law breakers. This bill will do nothing to change that except to allow the law abiding citizens to bring weapons into establishments. Do you not want law abiding citizens dining in your restaurant? The criminals will still be there carrying guns illegally.

June 5, 2009 at 9:09 a.m.
nooganCCP said...

Chief Cooper... isn't he the one who said we don't have gang problems or the one who said crime is not out of control in Brainerd? Oh, yeah, hey Chief, there are ALOT smarter people out there other than you. I believe Judge Moon encouraged all law-abiding citizens to arm themselves because you can't protect us.

Also on your statement, it is easy to see that you do not believe in the 2A, as we novices won't be able to make self-defense decisions in seconds should someone break into our homes and we have guns to defend ourselves. All because we don't have the hours of training your officers do? What about that out-of-control cop that throws old men in the Walmart down for asking to see his receipt? Is that the kind of training you get from those hours of training? Violating people's rights? Then you keep him on the force?

I was in the military for many years and I had alot bigger guns then the one I carry now and guess what? We were tained too!!! I bet he had no idea that the military has training!

I think the people of Chattanooga would be best to disregard any advice from this guy. He is obviously of the mind that only the criminals and the police (who sometimes are criminals (i.e. Billy Long)) should have guns.

June 5, 2009 at 10:51 a.m.
nooganCCP said...

To Chip McKeldin, don't worry, I have no interest in coming to your establishment. Maybe all permit holders can just not patronize your establishment and then the only people carrying in your establishment will just be the criminals. Good luck!

June 5, 2009 at 10:59 a.m.
0_o said...

What is to keep concealed carriers from drinking? I'm glad you have an unwavering faith in your fellow permit holders but everyone tries to "push the limits" now and again and you will have people who carry weapons drinking. Because never has a normally law abiding citizen drank too much or drove or anything like that.

I'm going to be honest with you that behind actual criminals with guns, people whose paranoia has brought them to the point were they feel they need to carry don't sit well with me.

June 5, 2009 at 1:45 p.m.
Whacker said...

Brandon83, their are a lot of us ex-military out here that believe the way you do! Freeman is a disgrace to every police officer that's ever worn a badge and now our police chief is of no less a disgrace.

June 5, 2009 at 2:11 p.m.
nooganCCP said...

I don't feel comfortable with people drinking and driving. It would seem you would be more uneasy about that. Since I don't drink, ban alcohol. Problem solved. Under your way of thinking, we should stop issuing licenses because the person with a license to drive might drink.

June 5, 2009 at 8:18 p.m.
federaloffense said...

I see a lot of people bashing Chief Cooper. I am not a fan either. You should all understand that you don't get a job like chief of police by siding with the everyday citizen on the issues, you get it by siding with the politicians and they don't answer to us anymore.

June 7, 2009 at 1:34 p.m.
Humphrey said...

I've begun to see the "no guns allowed" signs on doors. It seems to me like a bar owner would be an idiot not to post one. Think about it. If there is a horrible situation or accident, and it comes out that the law allowed the owner to post a "no guns" sign but they chose not to, then they are going to get their buts sued off. The liability is just too high not to post a "no guns" sign, because if you had that opportunity and didn't you wouldn't be able to say that you took every step possible to reduce the danger if something bad ever happened. Just too much risk of litigation.

May 19, 2010 at 11:20 a.m.
web77org said...

"I'm going to be honest with you that behind actual criminals with guns, people whose paranoia has brought them to the point were they feel they need to carry don't sit well with me."

The great thing is that it doesnt matter how it sits with you. Until its YOU that is raped or robbed and unable to protect yourself or your child, you will just have to accept the fact that its not paranoia...its simply comprehending that bad guys ARE out there and today might be the day their path crosses yours.

In my case, I'm prepared to protect my wife and my grandson. Hopefully if its you thats attacked and you and your family is in danger, one of us paranoid types is around to save your arse....

May 28, 2010 at 4:32 p.m.
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