Oddly Enough

Guns and booze don't mix, lawsuit argues

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - A well-known restaurateur is fighting back against Tennessee’s newly enacted law that allows gun owners to bring their weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

Assault rifles are displayed during the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits in Phoenix, Arizona May 15, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Randy Rayburn, owner of three top-rated restaurants in Nashville, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the state law’s constitutionality, arguing it creates a public nuisance by threatening the safety of the public.

“If it’s called a ‘nuisance bar,’ with shootings, it normally gets shut down. But in Tennessee, we apparently are going to have 225,000 vigilantes shooting in bars,” said David Smith, Rayburn’s attorney.

At least 200,000 Tennesseans have permits allowing them to carry their guns concealed while in public. The new law that takes effect on July 14 also specifies that persons who bring their guns into an establishment cannot drink alcohol.

Rayburn’s lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, claims the law violates the constitutional rights of the owners, customers and employees of restaurants and bars.

The new law was pushed by the Tennessee Firearms Association. Its executive director, John Harris, said critics had every opportunity to defeat the legislation -- which state lawmakers passed with little opposition -- and should not turn to court action at this point.

There are 37 U.S. states that give most people who apply the right to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. A few U.S. towns have tried to require residents to own guns.

A spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control advocacy group, said Tennessee’s law posed obvious risks.

“Any time you introduce guns into a situation where there’s alcohol, where they can be fights, it’s dangerous,” spokesman Chad Ramsey said. “We’ve all been to bars. They get crowded and there’s pushing and shoving sometimes. A situation that is ugly can become deadly.”

Rayburn’s lawsuit will receive a hearing on July 13, a day before the law is due to go into force.

Additional reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by John O’Callaghan