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Legislators resent media mockery of their guns galore campaign

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Whenever they're feeling a little heat from constituents for doing something stupid, lawmakers fall back on an old gambit: They blame the media. In this case, they're saying newspapers are sensationalizing the guns-in-bars law by reporting that it'll allow guns in bars. Outrageous!

So last week, as the legislature was overriding Gov. Phil Bredesen's veto, Rep. Curry Todd mocked his hometown newspaper as "the Comical Appeal," and the grandstanding Sen. Doug Jackson lashed out at the media for failing to write the story the way he would write it—i.e., by pointing out the genius of Doug Jackson.

Now House Speaker Kent Williams is getting into the act. In a weekend speech to a roomful of real-estate salesmen, he explained how our Deadeye Dick citizen gunmen might save your life at Applebee's some night. You know, if a killer happens to walk through the door while you're enjoying your plate of Tequila Lime Chicken, they'll hop up with pistols blazing and take him out before he makes it past the salad bar. We love the smell of gunsmoke in the evening.

"All I've seen is guns in bars, guns in bars, guns in bars," Williams said. "You'd think it's going to be the old wild, wild West. Everybody's going to be drunk and shooting at each other.... (But) you're going to go to Applebee's. You're going to go to these other restaurants, and it's going to be the same as it is today. The only difference being today if some nut comes in and starts shooting the place up, one of our carry permit holders will go pull his gun out and blow him away. That maybe saves some lives."

Newspapers are ignoring this major benefit of the new law, Williams observed. The problem is, attacking the media never works. Ask Spiro Agnew. When politicians start picking on the media, it can mean only one thing: They've really stepped in it this time.

After a brief foray to the tumultuous world of people who care about things, Gov. Phil Bredesen has retreated to the safety and comfort of the Neutral Planet where the motto "Live Free Or Don't" better suits his governing style. It was completely out of character and a little troublesome when he vetoed the guns-in-bars bill. But not to worry. He admits he didn't talk to a single legislator to try to sustain his veto.

"I guess the issue for me was it seems this would have taken a very difficult, all-out effort," he told reporters. Well, we wouldn't want the governor to exert himself, now would we?

Even though he called guns in bars "an invitation to disaster," he said he had "bigger fish to fry" in passing the state budget. We think he was stifling a yawn at the time.

That means clear sailing for the National Rifle Association and its fanatical followers in the legislature. The governor won't put up any more fuss. Three gun bills are still on his desk. One allows guns in city parks. Unless the Metro Council votes to forbid it, licensed gunmen will stroll around the softball fields and playgrounds of Shelby Park before the summer ends. Isn't that a comforting thought?

Another bill lets drunken rednecks ride around in their pickups with loaded rifles and shotguns. We wouldn't want them to feel threatened.

Yet another one, called the "Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act," purports to eliminate federal regulation of guns made in Tennessee. It won't really do that because the ATF says it won't, but whatever. We've already hurled ourselves down the rabbit hole here, so things make sense only if they don't.

Bredesen has already suggested he'll sign the guns-in-parks bill. He doesn't think it sounds all that dangerous.

"I will say I don't think it has the same severity in the sense of its not mixing alcohol with guns, which is the really dangerous piece of it for me," he says.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Firearms Association is ready to go for more. That's after assuring everyone they'd be satisfied with this year's slew of gun bills. Of course, they say that every year. Now, in an email to supporters, the association's John Harris says the Second Amendment absolutely demands that state law allow handguns on schoolyards too. He says guns in bars "is just the beginning."

Email jwoods@nashvillescene.com, or call 615-844-9445.

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