Yesterday, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would allow the state’s 270,000 gun permit holders to carry their firearms into bars, nightclubs, museums, zoos, and other establishments that have liquor licenses.
This is the second time in two years that Bredesen has vetoed a “guns in bars” bill. Last year, the state legislature passed a law that would have allowed permit holders to carry their weapons into any restaurant, except those whose predominant business was to serve alcohol. Bredesen vetoed it, the legislature overrode his veto, but a court later struck down the law on the grounds that it was unconstitutionally vague.
Reiterating his view that “guns and alcohol don’t mix,” Bredesen called the latest version of the “guns in bars” bill an “even more expansive and dangerous form” than the “reckless” version he vetoed a year ago. He twice referenced “common sense” in his veto message, emphasizing that gun rights need to be “exercised with” it.
The state house and senate need only simple majorities to override the governor’s veto. Last year, Bredesen’s veto was rejected by a whopping 66-31 vote in the house and a 23-9 vote in the senate, suggesting that his veto will be overturned again this year:
Will Cheek, a Nashville attorney who worked on last year’s court challenge, agreed that an override probably would succeed. This year’s bill was meant to be less susceptible to a court challenge, and Cheek said this measure doesn’t have the same problems as the one passed last year.
“The NRA (National Rifle Association) is too powerful, particularly in an election year, for legislators to do the right thing,” he said. “The governor is sticking to his principles. It’s symbolic, but it’s also consistent with what he believes.”
Rep. Joe McCord, a Republican state legislator with an A+ plus rating from the NRA, has criticized the unreasonableness of the gun lobby. “Essentially, NRA is saying to us, if you don’t support and vote for carrying guns in bars, we will not endorse you,” McCord said. “This line of reasoning borders on lunacy.” McCord is more liberated to speak honestly about this issue because he is not running for re-election.
Many of the state’s business associations are opposed to the “guns in bars” bill, including the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Hospitality Association. But the Tennessee Firearms Association called opposition to the bill “futile.” As ThinkProgress reported from the NRA convention in Charlotte this weekend, the NRA leadership appears to be out of step with the views of its own membership.