Reaching out to Speaker Harwell..

Dear Speaker Harwell,

My name is Beth Joslin Roth and I’m the Policy Director for the Safe Tennessee Project. I’m also a resident of your district and I’m a proud mom of two public school kids. I’m a native Nashvillian and a lifelong Tennesseean.

I’m also very concerned about the gun violence and injury from negligent discharge of weapons in our state.

Along with others, we formed The Safe Tennessee Project, a non-partisan, volunteer based organization dedicated to addressing the epidemic of gun violence in Tennessee by building awareness about gun safety through outreach to the community and effective policy advocacy. Our focus is not political- we are looking at this issue through the lens of public health and the toll that gun violence is causing Tennessee families.

We are concerned about the guns in parks bills that have been filed this year. The mayors of the largest Tennessee cities stood against this bill last year, as did their police chiefs and city councils. The Metro Council here in Nashville even passed a specific resolution addressing the issue.

Last year, the Commercial Appeal reported that you felt that the decision on whether or not to allow guns in city parks and playgrounds should be left up to the cities.

“Gov. Bill Haslam, the former mayor of Knoxville, said local governments should be allowed to retain authority over local parks but stopped short of saying he would veto it. House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said she wanted the locals to be allowed to continue to ban guns on public playgrounds.”

I have reached out to many mayors’ offices in the last few days.

Mayor Rogero of Knoxville agrees with us that the cities should be allowed to opt out. Last week, I heard from Mayor Palazzo of Germantown. Yesterday, I received email replies from Mayor Berke of Chattanooga and Mayor Dean of Nashville. All agree that they and their city councils and police chiefs know what’s best for their cities. Mayor Dean references the Tennessee Association of Police Chiefs as being opposed to the bills as well.

There seems to be some pretty substantial opposition to these bills.

I am hoping you can provide us some insight as to your position on these bills this year. Do you still feel the same way about the issue as you did last year- that you wanted local governments to be able to decide whether or not they wanted guns on their playgrounds?

All of the current guns in parks bills have effective dates of the first week of April, including HB995 which is scheduled for the House Civil Justice Subcommittee today. As you know, this is highly unusual and seems tied to coincide with the arrival of the NRA lobbyists in Nashville. Is there a rush to get this bill passed for their arrival?

I look forward to your response and learning more about your thoughts on these bills (HB995, HB996, and HB274) and if you agree with the mayors, city councils, and police chiefs that cities know best and should not have their choice on this public safety issue taken away.

(I have included the statements from Mayor Dean, Mayor Berke, and Mayor Palozzolo below)

Thank you for you service to our state.

Beth Joslin Roth

B E T H J O S L I N R O T H | P O L I C Y D I R E C T O R


“As with any convention that comes to Music City, we welcome these visitors and hope they enjoy all the great attractions Nashville has to offer.

While Mayor Dean supports the Second Amendment right to own firearms, he recognizes there are legitimate public safety concerns as to where and when people can possess guns. The Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police has recognized this as well, taking the position that this type of decision should be made at the local level. As Mayor of a large city, public safety is of utmost concern to Mayor Dean. Put simply, he believes allowing guns in Nashville parks is a bad idea.

The Metro Council, the locally elected legislative body, made the right decision to opt out of the state law allowing guns in parks. The Metro Council also sent a clear message about its desire to have authority over this issue by passing a memorializing resolution to that effect.

The Tennessee General Assembly should defeat SB 314 (HB 274) and uphold its original decision to let this important public safety issue ultimately be determined at the local level.

We welcome all visitors and tourists who come to Nashville, regardless of their political views or the subject matter of their conventions. However, we can’t change laws to accommodate every convention that visits our city. We hope the NRA’s members have a great time while they’re in Nashville.”
– Mayor Karl F. Dean, Nashville


I absolutely agree that this issue should remain in local control. As a state legislator, I voted against the initial guns in parks bill in 2009 and supported the local opt-out provision. I believe municipalities and counties should make the decision based on what is best for their citizens.
– Mayor Andy Berke, Chattanooga


The Board of Mayor and Alderman (BMA) for the City of Germantown formally adopted a legislative agenda which contains supporting the ability for local jurisdictions to opt-in or opt-out with regards to guns in parks, public spaces and public buildings. Our Parks and Recreation Commission and Police Chief both support not allowing guns in parks, as does our BMA
– Mayor Mike Palazzolo, Germantown