The media are a bunch of idiots.

I’m getting really annoyed with all the hubbub over the latest Tennessee gun law. You know, the one similar to the one passed in Arizona recently? TN and AZ are getting singled out as places that allow guns in bars.

The problem is that it’s not true.

That’s right, it’s just not true. Jon Stewart got it wrong. Stephen Colbert got it wrong. Every major media outlet talking about “guns in bars” got it 100% wrong.

You can’t carry a firearm into a bar in Tennessee. Period. It’s simply a lie.

To understand why it’s a lie, let’s examine the facts. Here’s a section of the TN State Code, before the law changed:.

39-17-1305. Possession of firearm where alcoholic beverages are served.

(a)  It is an offense for a person to possess a firearm within the confines of a building open to the public where liquor, wine or other alcoholic beverages, as defined in § 57-3-101(a)(1)(A), or beer, as defined in § 57-6-102(1), are served for on premises consumption.

(b)  A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

(c)  The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to a person who is:

(1)  In the actual discharge of official duties as a law enforcement officer, or is employed in the army, air force, navy, coast guard or marine service of the United States or any member of the Tennessee national guard in the line of duty and pursuant to military regulations, or is in the actual discharge of duties as a correctional officer employed by a penal institution; or

(2)  On the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control or who is the employee or agent of the owner of the premises with responsibility for protecting persons or property.

For those of you that can’t read legalese, here’s a quick translation:

  • You can’t have a firearm in a place that serves alcohol.
  • Doing so is a misdemeanor.
  • Exceptions to this rule:
    • If you’re police or military, that’s okay.
    • If you own the place or are a security guard hired by the owner, that’s okay.

Pretty simple, right? No guns except for the obvious exceptions.

Now, look at the text of the new law… Basically, it adds a new exception. Here’s the text itself:

(A) Authorized to carry a firearm under § 39-17-1351 who is not
consuming beer, wine or any alcoholic beverage, and is within the confines of a
restaurant that is open to the public, serves alcoholic beverages, wine or beer,
and is not an age-restricted venue as defined in § 39-17-1802.
(B) As used in this subdivision (c)(3), “restaurant” means any public
place kept, used, maintained, advertised and held out to the public as a place
where meals are served and where meals are actually and regularly served, such
place being provided with adequate and sanitary kitchen and dining room
equipment, having employed therein a sufficient number and kind of employees
to prepare, cook and serve suitable food for its guests. At least one (1) meal per
day shall be served at least five (5) days a week, with the exception of holidays,
vacations and periods of redecorating, and the serving of such meals shall be the
principal business conducted.
(C) This subdivision (c)(3) is subject to the provisions of § 39-17-1359,
permitting a property owner to post notices on such property prohibiting firearms.

Still don’t get legalese? Well, let’s break it down more simply:

First, 39-17-1351 is the section of the law that defines Handgun Carry permits. So that’s what that is talking about.

Next, 39-17-1802 is part of the new non-smoking law. Wait, what?

Recently, TN banned smoking in all restaurants and bars. However, they added an exception. They defined an “age-restricted venue” as a place that only allows people in who are 21 and older, all the time (instead of just at night or something). These places can allow smoking. Obviously, a lot of the bars did this, since large parts of their clientle smoke. However, many restaurants did not. These places make most of their money from food, they can’t ban families from coming in.

Basically, this definition created a rather obvious separation between a “restaurant” and a “bar”, without actually making any definitions along those lines. “Bars” are 21 and up. “Restaurants” are not. There’s exceptions of course, but for the most part this is the way it went down.

Now, reading that law again, you’ll find that it says “and is not an age-restricted venue as defined in 39-17-1802”. That part matters. Remember, “bars” are age-restricted venues in order for them to allow smoking in the place.

So this new law adds a new exception. Basically you now have this:

  • You can’t have a firearm in a place that serves alcohol.
  • Doing so is a misdemeanor.
  • Exceptions to this rule:
    • If you’re police or military, that’s okay.
    • If you own the place or are a security guard hired by the owner, that’s okay.
    • If you have a carry permit and are not drinking and the restaurant is not age-restricted, that’s okay.
      • If the owner is okay with it too and doesn’t post a sign about it.

That not age-restricted bit means, basically, “and it’s not a bar”. If you prefer, it really means “and is a non-smoking establishment”, for the most part, but these are basically equivalent at this point.

So, the bottom line: you still cannot carry a gun into bars in Tennessee. Restaurants, yes. Bars, no.

So if you’re a member of the media (or even if you’re Stephen Colbert) then please, do your research first before laying down your opinion. Your ignorance of the subject leaks out into the public, and they form biased opinions based on it, and frankly I’m sick of correcting people about the new gun law. It’s not a bad thing, really, because it doesn’t allow anything that the media claimed it does. Sheesh.