Tenn. gun bill sponsor faces DUI, firearm charges

October 12, 2011 - 11:30 AM
Lawmaker Gun Arrest

This booking photo released by the Metropolitan Nashville Police shows state Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, who was arrested late Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, on charges of drunken driving and possession of a gun while under the influence. Todd was a main sponsor of a Tennessee law to allow people with handgun carry permits to bring their guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Nashville Police)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The sponsor of the law that made it legal to carry a gun into bars in Tennessee is facing charges of possession of a handgun while under the influence and drunken driving.

Rep. Curry Todd, a Collierville Republican, was pulled over in Nashville late Tuesday, according to court documents. Police said he failed a roadside sobriety test and refused to take a Breathalyzer test. A loaded .38-caliber gun was found in a holster stuffed between the driver's seat and center console.

A police affidavit said Todd was unsteady on his feet, "almost falling down at times." It concluded that Todd was "obviously very impaired and not in any condition to be carrying a loaded handgun."

The legislator posted bail of $3,000 and was released from jail Wednesday morning.

Todd didn't immediately return a message left on his cellphone, and no lawyer was listed in his arrest records. A spokesman for the House Republican Caucus said leaders were monitoring the situation but had no immediate comment on the arrest.

Todd told officers that he had consumed two drinks when he was pulled over, according to the affidavit.

As a former Memphis police officer, Todd doesn't have to have a state permit to carry a gun in public. But state law makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to consume alcohol while carrying a firearm in public.

Todd's arrest was first reported by WSMV-TV.

Court documents don't indicate whether Todd had been drinking at a bar.

Todd sponsored a 2009 bill to let people with handgun carry permits take their weapons into businesses that serve alcohol, provided they don't drink. Although police and prosecutors spoke out against it, the measure passed and easily survived a veto from then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.

A judge later declared the law unconstitutionally vague but the Legislature addressed those issues in a new version that became a law last year.

During debate over the bill in 2009, Todd assured lawmakers that gun permit holders would be careful about not violating the ban on drinking in bars or restaurants while carrying a gun.

"The burden is not going to be on the restaurant owner, it's going to be on the individual, because he's going to know that he has a chance there if he's caught to lose his gun permit forever," Todd said.

Todd, the chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee, is known for flashes of a quick temper. After Bredesen vetoed the original version of the guns in bars bill, Todd said: "I want to tell you what the governor can do with that piece of paper he just sent."

Todd also drew national attention last year for saying in a committee hearing that illegal immigrants can "go out there like rats and multiply" after hearing that federal law requires the state to extend prenatal care to women regardless of their citizenship status because all children born in the U.S. are citizens.

Todd initially acknowledged that he used the wrong words and that he meant to say "anchor babies" — itself a term many consider offensive — but refused to apologize for the original remark.

Todd later changed course and said he would "apologize if the comment offended anyone."