Guns-In-Parks Bill May Allow Permit Owners to Carry on State Capitol


People with handgun carry permits would be able to carry their weapons on the grounds of the state Capitol under a provision inserted into a guns-in-parks proposal that overwhelmingly passed the Senate on Wednesday.

The amended legislation was approved 26-7. The main goal of the bill is to strip city and county governments of the power to ban guns in parks, playgrounds and sports fields, which was the main intent of the bill.

“This is about the right to self-defense, the right to protect yourself where you are,” said Sen. John Stevens, a Huntingdon Republican and the bill’s sponsor.

Under the amendment proposed by freshman Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, licensed handgun carry permit holders could also bring firearms into the Capitol complex, which includes Legislative Plaza and the War Memorial Plaza.

The change was not part of the version the House passed 65-21 on Monday, so the legislation now goes back to the lower chamber.

“The ball is now in the House’s court to figure out what they’re going to do,” Yarbro said.

Republican Rep. Mike Harrison of Rogersville, the sponsor of the House version of the bill, was surprised to hear about the change. He said he would have to research whether the Capitol provision fits within the scope of the original bill.

Yarbro said he brought the amendment to try to eliminate the “hypocrisy” off calling for guns to be allowed on playgrounds but not within the legislative office complex.

“If we’re going to mandate decisions for local government, we should at least apply the same standards to ourselves,” he said.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said he supports allowing permit holders to be armed in the Capitol complex as long as they still have to log their IDs upon entry.

“They’ve been through the background check; they’ve been fingerprinted; they’ve paid the fee,” he said. “And if they commit a crime, they’re on record. That’s a security enhancement.”

Currently, community parks, playgrounds and sports fields are among the few areas in Tennessee where local governments can ban people with handgun carry permits from being armed.

When state lawmakers first enacted the law to allow guns in state and local parks in 2009, they let communities opt out if they wished. More than 70 did.

Sponsors of the legislation say the state’s 500,000 permit holders are confused about which parks are off limits.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam opposed similar legislation in the past, and as Knoxville mayor supported a 2009 city council vote that kept in place a ban on handguns in some of the city’s parks. He said he has concerns about the legislation but hasn’t said whether he would sign it into law.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    April 29, 2015

    Due to the extensive security measures taken to allow and/or restrict individuals’ access to legislative buildings and government facilities, I see nothing wrong with allowing those who have carry permits to carry their fire arms into these establishments. However, I am not at all comfortable with allowing guns in public parks and especially children’s playgrounds. I understand the argument- freedom, liberty, the right to bear arms, and all that- but I just think allowing this has the potential to do more harm than good. Small children have no knowledge of how to safely handle a firearm, or any weapon for that matter. If a child somehow came in possession of a gun on a playground, who knows what could happen. This is scary, but a far more likely scenario would be for an adult to make a mistake with a gun. Almost anyone can pass a carry permit test, and almost anyone can forget to unload their gun or forget that the safety is off. The person could seriously injure themselves, another adult, or even worse, an innocent child. I do believe in the right to protect oneself from those that wish to harm you, but the chances of needing to defend oneself on a playground with children are much lower than the chances of someone getting hurt. It’s just not worth it.

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