NASHVILLE - Gov. Phil Bredesen says the "guns-in-bars" bill he voted today is in an "even more expansive and dangerous form" than the "reckless" version he vetoed a year ago.
In a veto message sent to House Speaker Kent Williams and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, Gov. Bredesen said "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.
"Instead," he said, "the General Assembly has essentially re-passed last year's legislation in an even more expansive and dangerous form. For this reason, I cannot sign it into law."
He said he is "well aware" of the majorities the bill received this year, "but as you consider this veto, I again respectively urge the legislature to rethink this issue."
The governor repeated his statement last year that he was taught in gun-safety classes that "guns and alcohol don't mix."
Gov. Bredesen is in China. His spokeswoman, Lydia Lenker, did not respond to an immediate inquiry as to whether the governor transmitted the message from China.
Last year, lawmakers passed a bill allowing the state's estimated 270,000 handgun carry permit owners to go armed in establishments selling alcohol for on-premises consumption provided the establishments met certain food service requirements and the permit holders did not drink. Permit holders also could not go into establishment where businesses posted signs banning guns.
The governor vetoed the 2009 bill, but lawmakers urged on by the National Rifle Association and others quickly overrode him and the legislation became law. However, a Davidson County judge later ruled the law unconstitutionally vague, saying permit holders had no way of knowing whether an establishment was meeting food requirements.
In effort to address that, sponsors' bill this year simply said a permit holder could enter any establishment selling alcohol for on-premises consumption provided they did not drink and the establishment did not post signs banning guns.
The list of establishments now includes restaurants, bars, beer taverns, nightclubs, museums, zoos and other entities that have state liquor licenses or local beer permits for on-premise consumption.
The Tennessee Firearms Association's Legislative Action Committee today said in an e-mail that it "expects this to move forward swiftly with a veto override."