NASHVILLE - House Republicans' firearms task force will continue despite the arrest last week of its chairman on charges of DUI and possessing a loaded .38-caliber gun in his vehicle while intoxicated.
Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he decided the group, which is looking at expansion of Tennessee's handgun-carry permit laws, would go on after House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, who is the panel's vice chair, voiced interest in taking over as chairman.
"I just decided to keep it going," said McCormick, who weighed over the weekend whether to disband the panel in order to focus more on job-related issues. "I still say it's not going to be a top legislative priority by any means."
The former chairman, Rep. Curry Todd, R-Memphis, resigned from the post after his arrest.
McCormick said Todd's situation also shouldn't interfere with legislative discussions about expanding places that permit holders can carry their weapons.
"Curry obviously made a mistake, but the issue's still out there," McCormick said. "It deserves some attention and shouldn't be judged solely on the mistake of one individual."
Todd, 63, was arrested Tuesday night by Nashville police. An affidavit says an officer found the loaded gun of Todd, who is a handgun-carry permit holder, "stuffed" in a holster between the driver's seat and a center console.
A former Memphis policeman, Todd was the primary legislative sponsor of Tennessee's 2010 allowing permit holders to go armed in restaurants, bars and other establishments selling alcohol for on-premises consumption.
Last week, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Todd deserved "zero tolerance" on the criminal charges if convicted.
But Ramsey, the Senate speaker, said lawmakers shouldn't back away fro the "guns-in-bars" legislation.
"There wasn't one documented case of someone going into a bar, a gun permit holder, and using their firearm. There's still not," he said.