Gun rights advocates locked in a legal battle with a Knoxville-area park sought this week to test the venue’s firearm policy at the Tennessee Valley Fair.
Members of the Tennessee Firearms Association aimed to fuel an ongoing lawsuit challenging a gun ban at Chilhowee Park on Tuesday by filming their attempt to bring legally permitted guns into the 81-acre facility, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
The group’s lawsuit argues Knoxville is illegally banning firearms from the state fair, but the city has responded by saying TFA members lack standing because they have not “alleged an actual injury, such as being arrested, fined or even turned away by police,” the newspaper reported.
But on Tuesday, seven armed TFA members went to Chilhowee and asked the Knoxville police officers at a controlled entry point if they would be arrested for entering the park, even if they were legal permit holders. The were told yes and that they would be refused and charged with criminal trespass.
In the above video, TFA members Ray and Kimberly Bergeron talk to Knoxville Police Department’s deputy chief of patrol, Monty Houk, about the refusal to enter the park.
Under state law, public parks are prohibited from banning legal guns, but Chilhowee is included under the Public Assembly Facilities, which manages entertainment and exhibitions like a major auditorium in the area where guns are banned, according to the newspaper.
TFA disagree with how the city worked around state law. “The courts should intervene and protect the constitutional rights of Tennesseans particularly when the state has by law denied any authority to local governments to ban firearms in public parks,” TFA Executive Director John Harris said in an email to Guns.com.
He added that behavior like that of Knoxville officials “is why so many Tennesseans are increasingly frustrated with local and state government” and search for alternatives to “traditional, career politicians who think that they are above the law.”
Last October, the National Rifle Association filed similar suit against the Mayor and the City of Knoxville in Knox County Circuit Court on behalf of an area resident and concealed carry permit holder who claims she could not safely attend a recent event at Chilhowee, as she had to do so unarmed, thus violating her Second Amendment rights.