NASHVILLE - House members voted overwhelmingly Thursday to accept the Senate version of a bill that allows handgun permit holders in Tennessee and 19 other states, including Georgia, to take their loaded firearms into establishments, including bars and night clubs, that serve alcoholic beverages.
The vote was 66-23 to accept a conference committee report quickly agreed to earlier this week by House and Senate negotiators. The conference committee was created to iron out differences in the legislation after the two chambers passed different versions of the measure.
"We now have true bars where alcohol and guns are going to be mixed," said House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, who opposed the bill.
House Bill 962 will now come back before the Senate on Monday where it is expected to easily pass. Gov. Phil Bredesen has repeatedly dodged questions from reporters on what he will do with the bill as well as other gun bills that have proliferated in this year's General Assembly.
The bill says permit holders cannot consume alcohol, but critics question its enforceability. The bill also allows establishments to post signs prohibiting permit holders from bringing in weapons.
The bill no longer contains original House provisions that included an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew during which time guns would be banned in establishments selling beer, whiskey and wine. The agreement adopted by the House also does away with the House's original position that guns would not be allowed into age-restricted venues.
Both were efforts to keep loaded firearms out of bars, nightclubs and what one senator called "honky tonks."
Under a reciprocity agreement, Tennessee honors the handgun carry permits of other states that recognize the ability of Tennessee permit holders.
As a result, Safety Department General Counsel Roger Hutto acknowledged, permit holders from states ranging from Georgia to Alaska can bring their loaded guns into Tennessee establishments selling alcohol.
In other action, senators voted 25-1 to prohibit confiscations of lawfully possessed firearms and ammunition during periods of martial rule. House Bill 1778, previously approved by the House, goes to Gov. Bredesen.
The Senate delayed action on another bill that allows handgun carry permit holders to carry loaded rifles and shotguns in their vehicles.