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Saturday, November 21, 2009

No guns in bars could mean guns in ALL bars.

As you know, a judge has overturned the guns in restaurants bill. Rep. Vance Dennis sent this opinion on what could happen from here.

it appears that Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman decided today that the guns-in-restaurants-that-serve-alcohol bill we passed this year is unconstitutional. It appears from news reports that she told the parties of her decision in Court today, so there won't be a written decision for at least a few days, if not weeks.

From what she is reported to have said in Court, it seems that the Chancellor has decided that the definition of "restaurant" is such that a permit holder cannot know whether an establishment that serves alcohol meets all the requirements of the definition, and therefore it cannot be enforced because a statute must be written in a way that is "sufficiently precise to put an individual on notice of prohibited activities". I copied an excerpt from a recent Supreme Court case at the end of this email if anyone wants a reference.

This is a bit of an unusual situation, because statutes are usually challenged for vagueness when someone who has been charged with violating the statute argues that it is too vague to know what is prohibited and what isn't. The permit holders who were Plaintiffs in this suit are challenging the statute before anyone is ever accused of violating it or raising the permit holder exception as a defense.

It is pure speculation, but I see two possible choices for the Chancellor, with the 2nd choice being more likely.

1. The Court declares the entire statute, T.C.A. 39-17-1305, unconstitutional and unenforceable. This would completely eliminate the Class A misdemeanor of carrying a firearm where alcohol is served, so permit holders could carry in any restaurant, tavern, bar, resort district, etc., that served alcohol. This would be a good thing for those who want permit holders to be able to carry in more places, and would be the complete opposite of what the Plaintiff's want.

2. The Court declares paragraph (c)(3) of T.C.A. 39-17-1305 unconstitutional, thereby eliminating the permit holder exemption from the statute, but leaving the rest of it in place.

I think the AG will have to appeal this decision, which will allow the Tennessee Court of Appeals to decide whether the Chancellor is correct. I seriously doubt there will be a decision from the Court of Appeals before we are out of session in 2010.

1 comment:

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