Nashville Chancellor Rules 2009 Restaurant Carry law to vague to be constitutional
At a hearing on Friday, November 20, 2009, Nashville Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman has ruled that the 2009 law allowing handgun permit holders to carry into unposted restaurants as long as the handgun permit holder is not consuming beer or alcoholic beverages is so vague that it violates principles of due process and is therefore unconstitutional.
The court reasoned that a law is “void for vagueness” if its prohibitions are not clearly defined (an observation which says volumes about the as yet unchallenged constitutionality of the “local option” on the parks bill, the exceptions to carrying loaded longarms, the prohibitions about whether individuals who have had their rights restored can obtain carry permits, the exceptions to carrying on school grounds, the procedures by which a handgun permit is restricted, etc.)
The court further reasoned that vague laws offend important values. One value is that a man is free to steer between lawful and unlawful conduct and thus this country insists that laws give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is illegal so that they can act accordingly. Thus, vague laws trap the innocent by not providing fair warning.
The court further reasoned that if arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement is to be avoided, laws must provide explicit standards to limit the actions of those who enforcement them.
The court found that the provision of the new act which required that the “serving of meals constitute[s] the principal business of an established” was too vague for a person of average intelligence to comprehend.