Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bredesen to Veto Guns-in-Bars Bill; Override Expected

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2009 at 4:47 PM

Governor Phil Bredesen has fired his shot in the battle over a bill allowing gun-permit holders to carry their weapons into bars and restaurants. In a letter delivered to state House Speaker Kent Williams and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Senate Speaker, the governor announced he would veto the bill, thereby setting the stage for a showdown in the General Assembly next week.

A follow-up press conference on the matter was scheduled by Bredesen for Thursday afternoon in the Capitol.

In the letter to the two speakers, Bredesen said it "defies common sense" for someone to be allowed to carry a weapon "into a crowded bar at midnight on a Saturday night."

The bill's chief House sponsor, state representative Curry Todd, a Collierville Republican, said he would move for a House override next week.

Tennessee law requires only a simple majority in both legislative chambers, Senate and House, to override a gubernatorial veto. The bill originally passed both chambers by a substantial majority.

In the letter, Bredesen, who professed general support for the constitutional right to bear arms, employed a phrase that had been used frequently by law-enforcement opponents of the bill: "Guns and alcohol don't mix." The governor cited that as a "basic tenet" of gun safety classes taught by the National Rifle Association, proponents of the measure.

This was the text of Governor Bredesen's letter to Speakers Williams and Ramsey:

I am vetoing House Bill 962. I am a strong supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by both the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution. I believe these provisions guarantee an individual right to bear arms, and I am unequivocally committed to preserving this American right.

Americans have also understood for more than two centuries that there are sensible rules that we apply to the exercise of these rights. I have been a life-long supporter of the responsible and appropriate handling and use of firearms. As a young man growing up in a small town, I attended a gun safety class in my high school sponsored by the National Rifle Association. A basic tenet taught in that class was this: "Guns and alcohol don't mix." This seemingly common sense proposition is as true today as it was almost 50 years ago.

In recognition of this basic principle of firearm safety, Tennessee state law has long prohibited the possession of firearms in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. House Bill 962 would remove this protection in a manner that I, along with many law enforcement officers, believe to be reckless and lacking basic safeguards to ensure public safety. The notion that this bill would permit one to carry a concealed weapon into a crowded bar at midnight on a Saturday night defies common sense, and I cannot sign such a measure into law. As you consider this veto, I respectfully ask the legislature to rethink this issue.

Rep. Todd would issue his own extended statement:

I intend to proceed with this bill, and override the veto. I’m disappointed that the Governor would use his veto power to abridge the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Tennesseans.

I’m also disappointed that the Governor would perpetuate the myth that this is a ‘guns in bars’ bill. This bill allows law-abiding Tennesseans with a handgun carry permit to carry in a restaurant in order to protect and defend themselves in the unfortunate event that they would need to do so.

Ninety-five percent of the citizens who have contacted me regarding this bill want to see it pass. I intend to move forward to ensure that the wishes of the citizens of this state are carried out.

I want to thank everyone who has shown support for this bill, and look forward to the continued support of my colleagues.

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