Will Cheek’s article was published in the Tennessean on Aug. 8, 2010.
Handgun-carry laws in Tennessee are not hard for experienced gun owners to understand. With a permit, you can carry your handgun. You cannot carry your shotgun or assault rifle, for example.
You cannot bring your gun into restaurants and bars with “no gun” signs on the door. You cannot carry a gun into a park if the city has voted to prevent guns. Park laws vary from city to city, but if you are not sure, you can ask a police officer or look at the list on the NRA website.
It is pretty simple.
Those that choose to be licensed to carry a gun should understand the law and know what they can legally carry into public places, and what they cannot carry. The gentleman that carried an AK-47 assault pistol into Radnor Lake certainly knows the difference, but he pushes the bounds of common sense. Why carry a handgun that looks like an assault rifle, even if it is legal? He may be trying to prove a point about the right to bear arms, but his effort is misguided.
Permit holders minimally trained
As I see it, the big question is not whether Tennessee’s gun-carry laws are vague and unconstitutional (as this gentleman’s lawsuit claims), but rather do they make sense?
Personally, I support the right to own a gun. I fondly remember learning how to shoot cans with my stepfather at my great-grandmother’s house in Opelika, Ala., when I was 6. The pistol was exciting, but the 12-gauge shotgun nearly knocked me down.
As a U.S. citizen, we have a fundamental right to own a gun to defend our home and nation. The Second Amendment right to bear arms makes perfect sense when you think about the time it was adopted — after battling the English Redcoats for freedom and confronting natives that were hostile to settlers.
In public today, it is a completely different matter. It is one thing to fire shots at cans or a paper target — it is completely different to fire a gun at a person in a crowded restaurant or bar.
Ask any police officer about the required training to carry a handgun as a police officer. They are trained to know how to use their guns in a crowd — most importantly, how to avoid shooting innocent bystanders. Compare this to the very basic training required by citizens to carry a handgun.
I welcome trained officers with guns in our bars, restaurants and parks. Vigilantes are glorified in the movies, but in real life, do you really want someone that has never trained to open fire in a crowded public place in a well-intentioned but misguided effort to help?
Then there is the issue of drinking. We are all aware of the drinking and driving problem. Despite decades of public campaigns and stepped-up law enforcement, people still drink and drive. Why should we expect gun permit holders to be the exception? We have to assume that there will be permit holders who will bring their guns into restaurants and bars and have more than a few drinks.
I work with hundreds of restaurants, bars and hotels across the state. There is a reason you see so many “no gun” signs on their doors. The owners know that guns and alcohol do not mix.
Trained law enforcement officers are always welcome. But it is simply too dangerous to allow untrained permit holders to carry handguns in crowded places like bars, restaurants and parks.