State Attorney General Robert E. Cooper's office Tuesday afternoon submitted a notice it planned to appeal a judge's Nov. 20 decision that struck down the controversial guns-in-bars law due to vagueness.
The law, championed by state Sen. Doug Jackson and passed in the legislature despite a veto from Gov. Phil Bredesen, made it legal for handgun permit holders to carry their weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol unless the establishment had posted a ban on carrying.
In her November decision, Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman said the law was unconstitutional because permit holders could not determine whether or not they were in violation of the statute due to the state law that offers an obscure and fluctuating definition of bars and restaurants.
“The principle business being conducted cannot be known to the ordinary citizen,” Bonnyman said at the time. “Inquiry would not be satisfactory or helpful.”
The suit was brought against the state by a group of restaurant employees, including Sunset Grill owner Randy Rayburn. Since the ruling, Jackson has indicated he's working on new legislation.
The attorney general’s office said they filed the notice of appeal because the office “believes that the statute is legally defensible.”
“While the legislature may take action in the future that will moot the appeal, it is this office’s responsibility to defend the laws that are currently in place,” the AG’s office said in a written statement.
“We would have the right as well to raise the issues that the court decided in their favor,” said the plaintiff's attorney David Randolph Smith, referring to Bonnyman's ruling against the plaintiff's claim the law was a violation of workplace safety laws and represented unconstitutional delegation of legislative and police power.