Fairfax, Va. – Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman of the Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tennessee ruled last week that Tennessee’s restaurant carry law is unconstitutionally vague because of a perceived ambiguity over the state’s definition of restaurants. This law gave right-to-carry permit holders the chance to defend themselves from criminal attack while in a restaurant.
"This ruling is a setback for Tennessee’s law-abiding concealed carry permit holders," said Chris W. Cox, NRA chief lobbyist. "We strongly urge Attorney General Robert Cooper to defend the Tennessee statute and appeal this unwise ruling."
HB 962, Tennessee’s Restaurant Carry legislation, passed both the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support, but Governor Phil Bredesen vetoed the bill on May 28, disappointing more than 200,000 right-to-carry permit holders in the state. While an override of the veto only needed a simple majority vote to pass, it cleared both chambers with overwhelming, bi-partisan support. This law went into effect in July of this year after the Tennessee House and Senate successfully overrode Gov. Bredesen's veto of HB 962. Tennessee joined 35 other states which recognize the right to carry in restaurants that serve alcohol when it enacted this legislation into law.
This law is crucial because crimes do occur in restaurants. On April 2, 2009, Benjamin Felix Goeser was gunned down at Jonny's Sports Bar on Nolensville Road in Nashville. His wife, Nicole Goeser, has a right-to-carry permit, but she had to keep her gun locked in the car because of Tennessee law. Mrs. Goeser actively lobbied for the passage of this measure.
"Right-to-carry permit holders in Tennessee need to be aware that the chancery court's regrettable and incorrect decision effectively suspends the law the legislature enacted and that they should not carry in restaurants until this litigation is resolved on appeal," concluded Cox. "The NRA will continue to fight on behalf of our members, permit holders and victims of crime until this reasonable self-defense measure is restored as Tennessee law."