Tennessee guns in parks bill heads to Gov. Haslam for consideration

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who as a mayor supported gun free zones in city parks, will now consider a bill to strike them statewide. (Photo: AP)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who as a mayor supported gun free zones in city parks, will now consider a bill to strike them statewide. (Photo: AP)

After approving a conference committee report, the Tennessee legislature sent a controversial bill to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam that would expand concealed carry rights in public parks.

The proposal has been shuttled back and forth between the House and Senate for the past two months over language that would have scuttled the gun free zone at the State Capitol. It finally passed last week once that provision was stricken. Further, the final legislation keeps a ban on lawful concealed carry at school events, but not at playgrounds that aren’t located on campuses.

“If that playground is on school property, there can’t be a permit holder carrying a gun there. If it’s not on school property and a school sponsored event is not underway, the permit holder can carry a gun there,”  said state Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, the Senate sponsor of the bill.

The bill in question, HB 995, would remove the current Tennessee law that allows local city and county governments to prohibit a permit holder from carrying a handgun in a public park that is owned, operated or used by that local government. While parks on school property were excluded, permit holders that use greenways, nature trails, and similar recreational area adjacent to them.

National gun control groups are urging Haslam to veto the measure.

“Like all parents, my top priority is my child’s safety and we know that public safety is a top priority for Governor Haslam,” said Kathleen Chandler Wright with Moms Demand Action in a statement. “But, if HB 995 becomes law, it would strip local leaders of their authority to decide whether to allow guns in our parks, putting some of Tennessee’s most sensitive areas at risk.”

“Gun lobby-backed legislators are attempting to pull the wool over our eyes with a confusing – and completely unenforceable – buffer zone for school events, but moms in Tennessee won’t be fooled: this bill will put guns in the same place where our kids play,” said Chandler Wright.

Haslam, as mayor of Knoxville in 2009, presided over a city council that retained a local ordinance that made city parks off limits to concealed carry holders but, in a statement made through spokesman Dave Smith to the Associated Press, advised that he will review the legislation in its final form before taking action.