"Scream it loud enough that they can hear you at Bellevue Baptist Church!" yells Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy ...
Bianca Phillips was on the scene.
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.
Though audible gasps from the audience followed Bunker's statement, five other commissioners apparently agreed, as they voted down the ordinance in committee. The ordinance will still go to the full commission for a vote on Monday.
The original ordinance, proposed by commissioner Steve Mulroy, would protect Shelby County employees, workers with county contractors, and employees of large private businesses in unincorporated Shelby County.
Commissioners Deidre Malone and J.W. Gibson proposed an amendment to the ordinance removing protections for all but Shelby County government employees.
"We need to get our own house in order before we can start regulating other people," said Malone.
Gibson also had concerns about the cost of enforcing the ordinance, if passed.
"This will require time and more people," Gibson said.
But Mulroy disagreed, stating that no additional investigators would be needed in the county's human resources office.
"It's not like we're going to have investigators roving the hallways looking for discrimination problems," Mulroy said. "The [Equal Opportunity Employment] Commission investigates based on complaints, just like they already do with other issues of discrimination."
Religious convictions guided the votes of several commissioners, including Mike Carpenter and Bunker. Bunker blamed the ordinance on a "homosexual agenda" and compared protections for gays to "the seven deadly sins."
"Once [homosexuals] get their foot in the door, they push their way through society until [homosexuality] becomes the norm," said Bunker.
Supporters and opposition for the ordinance filled the committee meeting room. Brad Watkins with the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center pleaded with commission members to consider God’s love when using Christian faith to justify their opinion on the ordinance.
"Our faith is one of inclusion and love. We can't say that we love someone and then sit back and discriminate against them," said Watkins.
"The city had placed it in a catch-all division with the animal shelter and weights and measures," said Deborah Clubb, executive director of the Memphis Area Women's Council, at a meeting of concerned groups and citizens last night. "At the county, it would be under community services with all the other crime-victim services."
To read more, visit Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff blog.
"This is a very dangerous piece of legislation,” said Pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church. "It will add unnecessary burdens on employers doing business in Shelby County."
The "unnecessary burdens" Gaines refers to would mean county government, county contractors, and private employers in unincorporated Shelby County with over 15 employees would be forbidden to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.
If passed, the ordinance proposed by county commissioner Steve Mulroy would provide the first such protections in the state. The ordinance will go to the commission for a full vote on Monday, June 1st.
Gaines went on to say that a gay and trans-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance could mean that cross-dressers wouldn't be fired from their job, "even if they were teaching elementary-age children."
Several African-American pastors scoffed at the idea of the gay rights struggle being compared with the civil rights struggle.
"We did not march for a select group of people to have civil rights and to have the civil rights struggle be hijacked," said William Owens, founder of the Coalition of African American pastors. "I was born black, and I will die black. This [ordinance] is not a civil rights issue because those with that [gay] lifestyle chose that lifestyle."
Other pastors publicly opposing the ordinance at the conference included Edward H. Stephens of Golden Gate Cathedral, Andrew Jackson of Faith Temple Ministries, Chuck Herring of Collierville First Baptist Church, and Danny Sinquefield of Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett.
Plenty of supporters of the ordinance turned out for the conference, but Bunker quickly silenced any opposition to the pastors' statements by threatening to take the conference inside a private room in the Shelby County Building if there was too much heckling from ordinance supporters.
Bill Neely, pastor of Neshoba Unitarian Universalist Church, supports the non-discrimination ordinance and stood quietly in the crowd until the conference was over.
I've heard six pastors talk of God's love and then advocate for discrimination of God's children," Neely said. "This is about equality and justice, and those are causes that we all should be supporting."
For more on the county's non-discrimination ordinance, including Steve Mulroy's take on the issue, check out the story in tomorrow's Memphis Flyer.