By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - A Tennessee lawmaker who sponsored a law allowing handguns in bars has stepped down as chairman of a state firearms task force after being charged with driving under the influence with a loaded gun in his car, a Republican official said on Friday.
Representative Curry Todd, a Republican from west Tennessee, was stopped by police on Tuesday when he was spotted traveling 20 miles per hour over the speed limit and weaving in and out of traffic, police reports said.
Todd slurred his words, was unsteady on his feet and failed a field sobriety test administered after he was stopped near the Vanderbilt University campus, according to an affidavit provided by Metro Nashville police. He refused to take a breath test, police said.
Todd, a retired Memphis police officer, also had a loaded .38-caliber handgun in a holster "stuffed in between the driver seat and the center console," the affidavit said.
The guns-in-bars law, passed in 2010, allows guns to be carried into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol but stipulates that it is illegal to drink while carrying them.
Todd, charged with possession of a handgun while under the influence and with drunken driving, was taken to jail before being released on $3,000 bail on Wednesday. His arrest came the same day his wife was granted a divorce in Shelby County.
Adam Dread, a Nashville attorney who formed a coalition to fight Todd on the law, called the arrest "poetic justice."
"He spent all his time arguing that as a permit holder that we don't violate the law, we're responsible and of course we would never drink when we had our guns, and then be arrested for the very thing that he was out there clamoring about is a little bit of poetic justice if you will," Dread said in an interview on NewsChannel5.com.
Todd could not be reached for comment on Friday, but Republican Caucus spokesman Brent Leatherwood confirmed that the representative met with House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, a Chattanooga Republican, and resigned as chairman of a House Republican firearms task force.
That left the task force without a chair and McCormick was studying its future, Leatherwood said. Todd remains chair of the House State and Local Government Committee.
Todd said in a statement he would meet with the speaker of the House to determine if it was "in the best interest of the General Assembly" for him to step down from that role as well.
Other than to say he was "deeply sorry," he declined to comment on his arrest, citing advice from legal counsel. He also thanked his constituents, colleagues and friends for their support, but not all lawmakers were supportive.
"I have zero tolerance for drunk driving," said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Republican speaker of the Senate.
"I think he needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," Ramsey said. "And the fact he had a firearm in the car is bad, that is breaking the law, too. And so he needs to be punished to the fullest extent there."
Ramsey said Todd's future in the legislature would be determined by his constituents.
(Writing and reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Cynthia Johnston)