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New Tennessee 'guns-in-bars' law takes effect, some opposed

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POSTED: July 14, 2009 9:11 p.m.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The first day of a new law that allows handguns in Tennessee bars and restaurants is being met with opposition from some of the establishments' owners.

The law, which allows guns to be carried in places that serve alcohol, took effect Tuesday.

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Davidson County Chancery Court sought an injunction to try to stop its implementation, but Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled Monday against blocking the law.

However, she set a hearing in 90 days to further discuss plaintiffs' arguments that the law is constitutionally vague.

Meanwhile, many bar and restaurant owners are already taking steps to prohibit the weapons by using a provision of the law that allows them to post signs saying guns are not allowed.

Security guards at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, a popular honkytonk in downtown Nashville, will start using metal detector wands to make sure the bar's ban on handguns is enforced, said owner Steve Smith.

"We've never had nobody seriously injured at Tootsie's, and I don't want to start gambling now by starting to allow guns in the place," said Smith, who expects to loose a few customers because of the ban.

In Johnson City, Dan Numan told the Johnson City Press that he and several other restaurant owners in the city plan to post signs. But Numan, who owns Numan's Cafe and Sports Bar, said in addition to the posting that the first 100 people who visit his place on Tuesday will be offered water pistols.

He said the gimmick is a facetious protest of the new statute, which he called "ignorant."

Over in West Tennessee, guns are being banned on Memphis' famed Beale Street, known as the birthplace of the blues.

Businesses in the entertainment district are putting up signs and beefing up security to make sure patrons aren't armed.

According to WREG-TV, the Beale Street Merchant's Association and Performa Entertainment, the group that manages Beale, plan to screen everyone who steps on the street.

Critics have repeatedly said guns and alcohol are a dangerous combination that jeopardizes patrons' safety, and they also contend the measure is unconstitutional.

Under the law, handgun permit holders cannot bring their weapons into establishments in which more than 50 percent of the proceeds go to alcohol. However, opponents say the law is vague in that patrons have no way of knowing which establishments those are, and risk being penalized.

Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen vetoed the measure in May, but the Tennessee General Assembly voted last month to override the veto.

Bredesen told reporters Tuesday that restaurant and bar owners are "going to do the best they can."

"I think the opt out provision takes some of the sting out of some of these issues," he said.

Proponents of the law point to state Safety Department records that show handgun permit holders in Tennessee are responsible.

Of the roughly 218,000 handgun permit holders in Tennessee, 278 had their permits revoked last year, records show. Since 2005, state records show nearly 1,200 people have lost their permits.

Revocations are issued for felony convictions, while permits can be suspended for pending criminal charges or for court orders of protection.

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Associated Press writer Kristin M. Hall in Nashville contributed to this report.

 

 

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