As Tennessee lawmakers ponder their next move in the guns in bars tangle that ended last week with a veto from Gov. Phil Bredesen, local clergymen are questioning what the legislation is supposed to accomplish.
"When you put a gun in the hand of someone who is under the influence of alcohol, you're really mixing a bloody cocktail," said the Rev. Robert Hogan, East Tennessee Baptist Association moderator and interim director of missions.
If the bill's supporters thought they were courting the religious right, Mr. Hogan said they missed the mark.
"You're not courting us by allowing something like that," he said. "The religious right doesn't condone violence. You're not courting us by giving the possibility of more violence and bloodshed."
Following the governor's veto Thursday of the bill allowing handgun-carry permit holders to bring loaded firearms into establishments selling alcohol, supporters said they would seek an override vote in the Tennessee General Assembly that could come as early as this week.
Overriding a veto in the 99-member House and 33-member Senate requires a simple majority. At least two Hamilton County lawmakers say they plan to support the expected override.
"I would vote to overturn it," Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, who supported House Bill 962, said Friday.
Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said he has supported the legislation for the past two sessions. "I suspect I would support (the override)," he added.
Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, and Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, said they will back the governor's veto.
"I think the governor did the right thing by listening to the concerns of professionals in the law enforcement community and doing what we can to stop this bill from becoming law," Sen. Berke said.
Local clergy disagree over whether the bill's support was, at least in part, a move to regain GOP support from the religious right, but they do agree that they don't think guns belong in bars.
"If Republicans are trying to find a way back to the right through that, that's not the way to it," said Dr. Steve Granger, pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church on Signal Mountain, adding that the bill never sat right with him.
"I'm all for the right to bear arms and Second Amendment rights, but I don't think that's the place to be carrying firearms," Dr. Granger said.
The Rev. Mike Feely, director of St. Andrews Center and pastor of East Lake United Methodist Church, said the bill "defies common sense."
"A bill like this doesn't have anything to do with the religious right or the religious left," he said. "The governor did the right thing, and I hope (legislators) uphold his veto."
Dr. David Bouler, pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church, said he thinks it's a stretch for anyone to think the bill was Republican state lawmakers' way to try to win back lost religious support. On the other hand, he said, he does not think guns should be allowed in bars.
"I'm an ex-Marine, and I'm a strong believer in right to bear arms," he said. "But I see it as questionable to have guns where you have alcohol flowing."
The Rev. Joseph Brando, pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church, said he sees it as "a justice issue."
"I would think the folks who are in favor of this bill, they're really choosing guns, and they're picking that over people's lives," he said.
As for whether lawmakers considered their votes as something courting religious favor, Father Brando thinks is a moot question.
"I think they're losing favor with lots of people," he said. "They may have won a legislative victory in passing it, but I think it could have some backlash."
Two other Hamilton County area lawmakers said it's possible they may reconsider their support.
Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, a retired Chattanooga police officer, said he plans to back a veto override "unless I get calls and e-mails convincing me otherwise. I'm doing what my constituents tell me."
Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, said, "I can't say just because I voted for the bill I would override the veto. He (Bredesen) asked us to reconsider, and I will."
Staff member Andy Sher contributed to this story.