published Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Tennessee: Gun bill delayed on curfew addition

Audio clip

Curry Todd

NASHVILLE — Legislation allowing handgun-carry permit holders to bring their firearms into restaurants selling alcohol ran into trouble in the House Monday night.

Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, requested a week’s delay on the bill after he was unable to kill an amendment by a Republican colleague that stripped out an 11 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew on permit holders bringing their weapons into restaurants and bars.

The visibly upset lawmaker later said he is “not sure ... what we’re going to do on the bill” and was critical of fellow Republicans who failed to back him.

“I am deeply troubled by my Republican colleagues who all in the past wanted to see something passed on this bill (and) voted to allow it to be wide open and didn’t have the courtesy to tell me” in advance, Rep. Todd said.

“You can’t leave it wide open out there in my opinion and be responsible, to let them just carry it anywhere they want to carry it,” Rep. Todd, a former policeman, said. “I can’t let them carry it into a bar. And I know what a bar is: pickled eggs, pickled sausage, pool table, shuffleboard and bar stools up there.”

The bill prohibits permit holders from consuming alcohol while at the restaurant. Restaurant owners could still post signs banning weapons, Rep. Todd said.

Rep. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, pushed the amendment to strip out the curfew, saying the “confusing hourly time” would prove problematic to law enforcement.

“It eliminates the need for a restaurant owner at 11 p.m. to flick on the lights and say all guns out,” Rep. Kelsey said.

Rep. Todd’s tabling motion failed on a 60-32 vote.

That came after the House had already voted 64-29 on an amendment that included the curfew as well as a provision banning permit holders from bringing their handguns into age-restricted venues that keep anyone under 21 from entering.

Rep. Todd told House members the language was intended to “take everything out that people say is a bar.” He noted the “National Rifle Association was OK with this,” but Rep. Frank Nicely, R-Strawberry Plains, questioned the need.

“Criminals have a ‘right’ to carry ... anytime they want to,” Rep. Nicely said.

Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, questioned the bill, asking if would allow someone to carry unlimited amounts of gun clips into a restaurant.

“Security’s going to be a little bit apprehensive,” he said, adding it could create a “harsh environment.”

The bill, which had 46 sponsors, is one of dozens of bills dealing with guns this year. Other bills include proposals to close off public access to information about who has a handgun carry permit.

One bill allows any full-time public college or university faculty and staff members with valid permits to bring their handguns onto campus.

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about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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