House votes against guns at the legislature; all dissenting votes from Democrats

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The House voted Monday to remove the Tennessee Capitol from a bill to expand the areas where people with handgun carry permits can be armed, a move supported by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The chamber voted 72-14 against the amendment inserted by the Senate last week (on a 28-0 vote). The original bill would strip local governments of the power to ban all firearms in parks, playgrounds and ball fields.

(Note: The legislative website has the vote as 75-17, though it was initially announced as 72-14, as reported by AP and other media — indicating there were a few votes changes afterwards, as permitted under House rules so long as the change doesn’t impact the outcome. Those officially voting no, all Democrats, are listed at the end of this post.)

The measure now heads back to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville said it’s unlikely the chamber will agree to the change. If that happens, the bill would go to a conference committee to try to hammer out differences.

“There are other improvements that could be made to the original bill,” Norris said.

Haslam earlier Monday expressed serious reservations about including the Capitol in the bill and said he supports stripping it from the legislation.

The governor said the Capitol’s safety and security officials have major concerns about the provision, “in terms of both the practical realities … as well as the process.”

The original guns-in-parks proposal passed the House 65-21 last Monday. Two days later, the Senate added the Capitol provision to the House version and passed it 26-7.

After Monday’s action, the measure could be back on the Senate’s calendar as early as Thursday.

Haslam has concerns about the guns-in-parks bill in general. He said he hasn’t decided yet whether he will veto the proposal, regardless of whether the provision is included. He said some of the measure’s language is confusing, such as what should happen in the case of parks that are used by schools.

“That’s why it’s best to have local governments make those decisions because they know what happens in the parks that they own,” Haslam said.

Beth Roth of Nashville was among several people who came to the Capitol on Monday to oppose the guns-in-parks proposal. Roth said she agrees with the governor’s concerns because the school her sixth-grade son attends uses an adjacent park for recess and after-school activities. She also said the right to ban guns in such places should stay with local governments.

“I feel like the cities absolutely should be the ones deciding what makes sense for those cities,” Roth said. “It’s definitely an example of big government trying to come and take control away from local communities, and that concerns me.”

Note: The roll call vote on the legislative website is HERE. It includes:

Representatives voting no (on the motion to non-concur) were: Akbari, Armstrong, Clemmons, Dunlap, Favors, Gilmore, Hardaway, Jones, Love, Miller, Parkinson, Pitts, Shaw, Stewart, Towns, Turner, Windle — 17. No Republican did so, though one, Rep. Art Swann, officially abstained. The missing votes are from legislators who did not vote yes, no or officially abstain.