Senate approves bill allowing guns in local parks, 26-7

The state Senate today approved on a 26-7 vote legislation that would allow handgun permit holders to take their weapons into city and county parks where they have previously been prohibited.

The bill (SB1496) revises a 2009 law that allowed guns in state parks, but left decisions on local parks up to each city or county.

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, sponsor of the measure, said the 2009 law violates a provision of the state constitution declaring that the state – not local governments – shall regulate the “wearing of arms” and that it has created a “patchwork of laws” rather than the uniform statewide policy that should prevail.

In Knoxville, Campfield said the gun prohibitions can change with a step because park “greenways” cross the city-county border and different rules apply in the city than in the county.

The bill includes a provision saying that local governments can continue to prohibit guns while “school functions” are underway at a park – a school-sponsored athletic event, for example.

Gov. Bill Haslam has declared his opposition to the bill, which has yet to come up for a vote in the House committee system. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero have also opposed the bill – as have mayors of the Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga.