FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2015
Guns in Parks Bills Filed to Accommodate The National Rifle Association Convention
Gun violence prevention organization Safe Tennessee Project urges concerned citizens to contact their mayors, police chiefs, city councils, and Governor Haslam.
2015 is shaping up to be The Year of the Gun in Tennessee. As of the filing deadline, over 50 gun-related bills have been filed by Tennessee legislators. Most seek to further relax current firearm laws. At a time when there are many pressing issues affecting our state, some in the Tennessee legislature feel that passing more gun-friendly laws is the priority.
Last Thursday, WKRN reported on the legislature’s revival of the controversial “guns in parks” legislation that failed to pass in 2014. Current Tennessee law allows those legally allowed to carry firearms to do so in public parks, but provides an opt out clause allowing cities to choose whether or not they want guns in their parks and playgrounds. The four largest Tennessee cities along with dozens more chose to exercise that option, deciding that their city parks and recreation areas would be safer without guns in them. Here in Nashville, many schools share space with (or are adjacent to) public parks. Considering that Tennessee currently ranks 9th in the nation for accidental shootings, we have concerns about an armed individual of unknown origin or intent sharing space with schoolchildren enjoying recess.
The Safe Tennessee Project believes that cities know best and that decisions like this should be made locally by the mayors, police chiefs, and city council members who know and understand the issues specific to their city or town. After a similar bill that would have forced cities to allow guns in their parks was defeated last year, three new guns in parks bills have been filed this year. Two are sponsored by Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon (SB1170 and SB1171) and one is sponsored by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald (SB314). Most bills filed in the legislature have effective dates of late summer, usually July or August. All of the guns in parks bills filed this year have the unusual effective date of the first week in April which is the week before the NRA convention. Senator Hensley’s bill specifically references the desire of the 80,000 convention attendees to carry their guns everywhere during the convention. The language in the bills also indicates that the city owned convention center would be included as public space.
“We believe the current law is working fine and should not be changed to please Washington lobbyists or enable 80,000 people to carry their guns all over our city for a weekend,” said Beth Joslin Roth, Policy Director for The Safe Tennessee Project. “The last line in all legislative bills is ‘the public welfare requiring it,’ ” she said. “Considering that there is no epidemic of violent crime in parks or city playgrounds or the Music City Center, and considering that the CDC ranks Tennessee 9th in the nation in accidental shooting deaths, the question of whether the ‘public welfare requires this bill’ is highly questionable.”All guns in parks bills will be heard in House and Senate committees next week. The Safe Tennessee Project urges Tennesseans concerned about these bills to contact their city’s mayor, police chief, city council members, and Governor Haslam. “Let them know that you believe the citizens who fund, maintain, and enjoy their local parks should get to decide whether guns will be allowed in them,” Roth said.