Despite a passionate speech by a Republican asking “What line will we not cross for the NRA?” the House approved the guns-in-bars bill Wednesday night and sent it to the governor.

The House voted 66-31 — a veto-proof majority — to approve the Senate bill that passed last week, after rejecting an amendment to maintain the gun ban in “bars” but allow them in restaurants serving alcoholic beverages.

If it becomes law as expected, it allows more than 270,000 Tennesseans with handgun-carry permits — plus millions of others from states whose permits are recognized by Tennessee — to go armed into any business serving alcohol of any kind.

Owners may still post signs prohibiting guns inside. And permit holders caught drinking while carrying a gun are subject to a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail and a three-year suspension of their permit.

The amendment would have banned guns in businesses deriving less than half of their income from food sales and required owners of such places to post gun-ban signs. It was voted down 60-36.

Lawmakers in 2009 passed a loosely worded bill purporting to allow guns in restaurants serving alcohol but left it to the public to differentiate between them and “bars” with more liquor sales than food — a distinction that technically doesn’t exist in Tennessee law. It was in effect for four months before a judge overturned it as unconstitutionally vague.

Source: Richard Locker for The Commercial Appeal.

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