NASHVILLE (CN) – A restaurateur and others who serve alcohol asked the Tennessee Attorney General to join them in opposing a proposed law that will expressly allow loaded guns in bars. The Legislature overrode Gov. Phil Bredesen’s veto and the law is slated to take effect on July 14.
It will make Tennessee the first state to expressly allow people to carry a loaded, concealed gun into a bar, according to the complaint in Davidson County Court.
Randy Rayburn, a restaurant owner, claims that with more than 220,000 gun permit-holders in Tennessee, the “guns in bar law” will create a public nuisance, threaten the health, safety and welfare of the public and endanger the lives of bar and restaurant employees.
The plaintiffs claim the bill was passed through trickery, as proponents called it the “restaurant carry” law or “restaurant bill,” all the while knowing that Tennessee liquor laws do not differentiate between bars and restaurants.
Even if a restaurant or bar posts a “no firearms” sign, under the new law, violators will allegedly face no more than $500 in fines for ignoring it.
Supporters of the law claim that 38 states have similar laws that allow permit holders to bring their weapons into businesses that serve alcohol, but the petitioners say that’s not true.
The plaintiffs say 14 of those states prohibit loaded guns in bars and the other 24 states do not have laws that expressly permit or prohibit guns in bars.
Even if the law takes effect, important details have not been ironed out, the petitioners claim, such as: What if a permit owner is already drunk when he or she arrives at the restaurant, and what constitutes drunkenness for a gun-carrier?
Gun holders are not allowed to drink alcohol on commercial premises but can enter the place while under the influence, as long as they are not “intoxicated.”
The petitioners present instances in which guns in nightclubs and bars have resulted in tragedy and seek an immediate restraining order and permanent injunction.
Petitioners say the Second Amendment does not justify passage of the law, “just as there is no First Amendment right falsely to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theater: There is nothing in the language of our state constitution or in the history of the right to ‘bear arms ‘… which lends any credence whatsoever to the claim that there is a constitutional right to carry a firearm into a drinking establishment.'”
The petitioners charge the state with public nuisance, due process violations, state-created vigilantism and other charges.
They are represented by David Smith and Adam Dread.