Monday, June 15, 2009

Guns in parks proposal signed by governor

USA Today By Lucas L. Johnson Ii, Associated Press Writer NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen on Friday signed a proposal to allow handguns to be carried in city or county parks in Tennessee, but urged local governments to use the "opt-out provisions" of the legislation. The measure, which also allows handguns in state parks, goes into effect immediately, according to legislative officials. The Senate had passed the proposal on a 24-8 vote, and the House agreed to that version 54-41 -- just four votes more than the minimum needed to pass the chamber. One of the reasons for the close vote was that the Senate version would require local governments that don't want guns to be carried at their sports fields, playgrounds, greenways or other parks to vote specifically to ban them. A previous House version would have banned guns in all local parks unless city or county governments voted to allow them. In a letter to Republican House Speaker Kent Williams of Elizabethton, Bredesen said he "continues to have concerns about the inclusion of local parks in this bill." "I ... want to urge local governments to use the opt-out provisions of this bill to remove parks from its effect where they are located close to schools and other places where large numbers of children gather," the governor wrote. On Thursday, the House sponsor said he was abandoning the provision in exchange for Bredesen's commitment not to veto a separate bill about weapons in restaurants. That measure included an effort to prevent local beer boards from denying permits to restaurants that allow patrons to carry handguns. But Republican Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet, the Senate sponsor of the guns in parks proposal, said Friday that there was never an agreement. Last month, Bredesen vetoed a bill to allow guns to be carried in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. That veto was overwhelmingly overridden in both chambers of the Legislature. Also Friday, the governor allowed another gun bill to become law without his signature. That measure states that "federal laws and regulations do not apply to personal firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition that is manufactured in Tennessee and remains in Tennessee." Bredesen said he believes the law will ultimately be found unconstitutional. "The Tennessee General Assembly lacks any constitutional authority to limit the power and authority of the United States government in this manner," he wrote in a separate letter to Williams. "I am allowing it to become law so that it can quickly be dealt with in the federal courts." The other proposal he signed allows handgun permit holders to transport ammunition alongside rifles or shotguns inside their vehicles. Under the law, those guns cannot have ammunition in the chamber. Supporters said a law change was necessary because current law considers shotguns or rifles to be loaded if ammunition is nearby.

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