TN Guns-In-Bars Bill Sponsor Arrested For Carrying While Under The Influence

October 12, 2011 12:48 pm ET — Matt Gertz

Tennessee state legislators passed a bill last year allowing handgun carry permit-holders to carry loaded handguns into bars, overriding the veto of then-Gov. Phil Bredersen (D). Bredersen warned that "guns and alcohol don't mix," and indeed, according to a recent study published in Injury Prevention, firearms owners are more likely to engage in heavy alcohol use than those who don't own firearms.

But supporters like GOP state Rep. Curry Todd would not be swayed, and insisted that allowing guns in bars was an "issue of personal safety." Last night, Todd was arrested while allegedly driving under the influence. He had a loaded handgun "in a holster stuffed between the driver seat and center console."

The Tennessean reports:

The officer then states in the affidavit, "The subject was very unsteady on his feet, almost falling down at times. His speech was slurred, his eyes very red, watery and bloodshot and he had an obvious odor of alcohol about his person and on his breathe as he spoke.

[...]

The officer also says that a loaded Smith & Wesson 38 Special was discovered in a holster, stuffed in between the driver seat and the center console.''

"The subject was obviously very impaired and not in any condition to be carrying a loaded handgun.''

Todd is currently facing charges for drunken driving and possessing a gun while under the influence.

Tennessee has not only created a situation where those who are "not in any condition to be carrying a loaded handgun" may do so; the state's laws also allow those who should not be carrying a loaded handgun to do so. Tennessee is a "shall issue" state," requiring the government to grant a concealed carry permit to anyone over 21 legally qualified to carry a firearm. In 2009, the Commercial Appeal pointed out that this has allowed "dozens of Shelby Countians with violent histories" to receive permits.

Todd's arrest was not the only guns-in-bars story from last night. Last month, Ohio began allowing concealed carry permit-holders to carry firearms in bars. Yesterday, concealed carry permit holder Chad O'Reilly, 26, began arguing with another patron at a bar and reportedly pulled out his gun:

As the argument became heated and verbal threats were exchanged, O'Reilly allegedly brandished a handgun and threatened to kill the other man, police said.

Police said that as that man moved to cover, bar staff called 911 and O'Reilly's friends tried to calm him down, eventually moving him outside, where he was taken into custody at gunpoint by arriving police officers.

The pistol was found to have a loaded magazine but no round chambered.

Ohio is also a "shall issue" state. Other states have passed more restrictive standards that ban alcohol abusers, misdemeanor offenders, or others, or give law enforcement greater discretion in providing permits. But under the concealed carry reciprocity bill favored by gun advocates like Todd, states would need to recognize permits issued by states with weaker laws.

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