Speaking in the Old Supreme Court chambers of the State Capitol and flanked by a 50 or more local law enforcement officials from Metro, Memphis and other jurisdictions, Gov. Phil Bredesen today announced that he is vetoing the controversial "Guns in restaurants" legislation, passed by both houses of the General Assembly.
The legislation would allow the roughly 218,000 handgun permit holders in Tennessee to carry firearms into establishments serving alcohol.
Bredesen cited concern for public safety among the reasons for his veto, a position long expressed by Metro Chief of Police Ronal Serpas who was on hand along with District Attorney Torry Johnson.
Bredesen told the media that he was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and that he believes individual rights are important. However, the legislation passed by the General Assembly was "reckless" and "defied common sense."
Bredesen said that he learned long ago from a high school teacher that "guns and alcohol do not mix."
Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas praised the veto noted his and other state law enforcment opposition. Serpas remarked that enforcement would be difficult, if not impossible.
"Who is going to enforce this," Serpas asked. "The bar owners, I think not."
Tommy Thompson, District Attorney of the 15th Judicial District also joined in opposition.
"We are headed down a slippery slope here," Thompson said. "We should be more concerned with jobs and the economy. The governor made a courageous decision today."
The sponsors of the legislation have said they have the votes to override the veto which requires only a simple majority. Bredesen acknowledged the likiehood of that outcome in his remarks.
Many members of the House have openly said they felt betrayed by changes made to the bill by the state Senate, the most notable being the removal of the provision would impose an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on bring guns into bars.
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