Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tennessee House approves guns in parks

Senate action is still needed By Erik Schelzig • ASSOCIATED PRESS • April 21, 2009 Tennesseans with state-issued permits to carry loaded handguns in public would be able to bring their weapons into all state parks and some local parks under bills passed Monday in the House. The chamber voted 71-22 to approve the measure sponsored by Rep. Frank Niceley to require all state parks to allow permit-holders to carry their weapons there. The bill is opposed by the state Environment and Conservation Department, which operates state parks. Commissioner Jim Fyke testified to a House committee earlier in the session that there have been only 21 reported crimes against the more than 100 million visitors to state parks during the past three years. But supporters said they would feel safer if they could bring guns. Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said the proposal would make him feel safer, especially "as the father of a young child who's going to be utilizing the state parks as it starts to warm up." Former House Speaker Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington was one of the 22 Democrats who voted against the guns in state parks bill. He said he worried that handgun permit holders would decide to set up makeshift targets to shoot at. "My concern is what happens to the ricochet? I've been around a whole lot of guns all my life, and I know what happens with them," he told reporters after the vote. "I have a real concern about people taking their guns to these parks and (there are) folks with guns there." Local powers given The separate measure to authorize local governments to decide where to allow guns in public parks passed on a 77-14 vote. Under the measure sponsored by Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville, officials could decide to allow handguns in some areas but not others. "What local governments will have the ability to do is to decide which, if any, of their parks they would like to allow handgun carry permit holders to possess their weapons," Tindell said after the House floor session. "This is not an open season for all citizens to carry guns in parks, it's not an open season to shoot your gun in parks," he said. Tindell said it's not clear how many of the state's 450 municipal or county governments would enact laws to allow guns to be carried in their parks, greenways, ballfields or playgrounds. I think you'll see quite a mix of those that opt in or opt out," he said. The companion bills to both measures are awaiting votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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