The arrest this week of a Tennessee lawmaker for allegedly driving drunk with a loaded gun bolsters the case of opponents of a law he championed allowing owners of concealed weapons in bars and restaurants where alcohol is served.
“Proponents of Tennessee’s guns-allowed-in-bars law argue that gun-permit holders are responsible citizens,” Ray Friedman said in reaction to the arrest of Curry Todd. “They would never break the law by drinking in bars and restaurants while carrying their guns. Rep. Curry Todd just proved that this simple idea is wrong.”
Friedman publishes a website listing what establishments permit guns.
Police stopped Todd, who’s chairman of the legislature’s Firearms Task Force, after they observed him allegedly speeding and swerving Tuesday. Inside his GMC Envoy, Curry reeked of alcohol, police said, adding that they found a loaded Smith & Wesson .38 Special in a holster next to the driver’s seat.
Todd was “almost falling down,” according to a Nashville police affidavit. The 63-year-old Republican legislator was charged with drunken driving and possession of a handgun while under the influence. In the arrest report, police said Todd “was obviously impaired and in no condition to be carrying a loaded handgun.”
In the mug shot taken after his arrest, state representative Todd looks disheveled and bleary eyed, barely able to keep one eye open.
The irony is inescapable: Todd is among the strongest backers of the Tennessee law allowing owners of concealed weapons in places where alcohol is served. During the debate, he told ABC News, “I think that you, as a permit-holder, have that right and responsibility to protect your family.”
Nashville police did not disclose where Todd had been drinking. After spending a night in jail, he posted $3,000 bond and was released.
His office did not immediately comment.
UPDATE: Friday, Oct. 14, 2011:
However, on Friday, Tennessee Republicans emailed a written apology by Todd dated Wednesday in which Todd did not comment directly on the specifics of the incident.
“Let me begin by saying I am deeply sorry for the events of last evening,” he said. “On the advice of legal counsel, I have decided not to make any public comments about the situation at this time.
“Upon her return to the Capitol, I will have a conversation with [Tennessee House] Speaker [Beth] Harwell to determine whether it is in the best interest of the General Assembly for me to step aside as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee,” he added. “On a personal note, I am incredibly grateful for the calls of support from constituents, colleagues, and friends about this incident.”
Tennessee is among a growing number of states that now allow permit holders to take concealed handguns into bars and restaurants. Ohio passed a similar law earlier this month. In both states, establishments have the right to ban guns if they post signs making it clear they are not welcome.
Nashville legislators said today Todd’s task force was likely to be delayed, if not disbanded, after its chairman’s embarrassing arrest.