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Letter From the Editor

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Pretty soon, a new sign may begin appearing on the doors of some Tennessee restaurants, similar to those now reading "No Smoking." The new signs will read: "No Guns Allowed." Conversely, we may see some restaurants with another sign: "Gun Friendly Establishment."

If Governor Phil Bredesen signs the latest madness from the gun-crazed Tennessee legislature into law, concealed-carry permit holders will be allowed to enter restaurants and bars while packing heat, unless they are specifically excluded by the establishment. They won't be allowed to drink, of course, because, well, that might cause problems.

Restaurant and bar owners are opposed to the new law, as are law enforcement officials and, presumably, most sane Tennesseans. The small percentage of citizens who carry concealed weapons have major clout in Nashville, however. They've also convinced our fine legislators to pass a law that will remove their names as permit holders from public scrutiny. So now, it's concealed carry and concealed identity. Beautiful.

Restaurant and bar owners will face a decision much like the one they faced when Tennessee's law banning smoking in restaurants was passed. They had to determine which category made more sense for them financially: to ban smoking or to allow smoking and become strictly an over-21 establishment. Now they'll have to decide whether they'll make more money from those who want to eat and drink in a gun-free environment or from those who like the idea of eating and drinking where the guy on the next barstool may be a pistol-packer.

Aside from the obvious danger that a bar-room argument over an NFL game could escalate into tragedy, there are other problems. How does a bartender know whether the guy at the bar in his gun-friendly establishment is unarmed? When the guy orders a drink, will he have to lift his shirt or open his jacket? Will such establishments have metal detectors at the door and stamp the hands of armed customers so they won't be able to get a drink? The mind boggles.

Imagine the discussions in corporate boardrooms as, say, the Applebee's management team discusses whether or not to have its Tennessee restaurants go "gun free" or "gun friendly." It's a loaded question, and one we shouldn't be having to answer. Here's hoping Bredesen stands up to these idiots and vetoes the bill.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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