Lee Harris: ‘Guns in parks’ may close festivals, concerts in TN cities

News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Joined by gun safety advocates and a former chief of police, Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris talked about the danger to Tennessee concert goers posed by an attorney general’s ruling forcing private entities to allow guns at concerts.

“If this is allowed to stand, some of these major festivals may decide to end or move out of public parks,” Sen. Harris said. “A few reasonable people may avoid going just to avoid risk. Given the economic impact of these festivals, we have to do something so that people can feel safe at major festivals and concerts. We need legislation that makes clear that organizers can ban guns at these events when they believe there is a security risk.”

Junaid Odubeko, a Nashville attorney who served in the Bredesen administration and provides legal counsel to the Senate Democrats, said the ruling will stop city and county governments from banning guns in their parks, including at major festivals, even if these governments contract with private, third-party entities to operate the parks.

“The AG has opined that the legislature’s actions here are clear and unambiguous,” Odubeko said. “The legislature wanted to take away the ability of local governments to keep people from carrying guns in parks. From my review of the law, I would say that the AG correctly interpreted the legislative intent of the new law.”

There have been at least 20 accidental shootings in Tennessee so far this year, according to Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project.

“The frequency of these kinds of incidents is alarming,” Roth said. “What’s even more alarming is the possibility of these kinds of accidental shootings happening in extremely crowded situations such as an outdoor concert venue or festival. Unlike those who describe accidental shootings as ‘acts of God,’ we believe that they are 100 percent preventable.”

Retired Memphis Chief of Police James Bolden spoke from his experience in law enforcement on the danger guns can pose in large crowds where alcohol is consumed.

“At the Memphis in May festival, at any given time we could have 75,000 citizens cramped into a small space,” Bolden said. “Even if you took a small percentage and allowed them to bring firearms, we’re setting ourselves up for a disaster of catastrophic proportions. Police won’t know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys and would have to make a snap decision.”

Sen. Harris will host a roundtable in Nashville with gun safety advocates to continue the discussion, tentatively set for Aug. 13.

Note: Reporting on the release and Harris’ news conference Friday includes: News sentinel/Commercial Appeal HERE; Times-Free Press HERE. Both quote a former Memphis police director as seeing a “potential disaster” and note regional events that could be impacted.

Previous post HERE, including link to the AG opinion HERE.