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The wackiest gun freaks in the legislature met in one room this afternoon to settle differences between the House and Senate versions of the guns-in-bars bill. It's a statement about this year's session that they debated not whether to allow handgun permit holders to go armed in saloons but whether to let them do it after 11 o'clock at night. The House-Senate conference committee, bowing as usual to the wishes of the National Rifle Association, voted to drop the curfew. The committee's report now goes to the House and Senate floors for up-or-down votes.
The decision put the lie to one of the big arguments for the bill. Proponents claimed they only wanted to let handgun permit holders carry their weapons into restaurants, not saloons. That's why the House added the curfew. As Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, pointed out: "After 11 o'clock, no family restaurant is open." Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville, acknowledged the hypocrisy in deleting the curfew now.
"For years, we've been talking about this as a restaurant carry bill," said McCord, who voted against accepting the Senate version.
Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, claimed his legislation would prevent violence in bars, citing the story of a woman who told him her husband was killed in a restaurant that serves alcohol.
"Her husband was killed in front of her at arm's length," Jackson said. "She is a handgun carry permit holder. She was required by law to leave her gun in her car. She is very, very upset with the legislature that a law existed that required her to be disarmed. She said, 'But for that law I believe my husband today would be alive.' Unfortunately these tragedies do occur."
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