Guns banned TN Valley Fair despite state law

Guns will be banned at the Tennessee Valley Fair this weekend in Knoxville despite a state law that allows handgun carry permit holder to take weapons into city parks and a state attorney general’s opinion saying the law applies at ticketed events, reports the News Sentinel.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero’s reasoning: The law applies to city parks and the location, Chilhowee Park, is not a city park.

City-owned Chilhowee Park, despite its name, is not a park but “a public assembly, entertainment and education venue used for civic events and by contractors for special events,” the mayor said in a written statement.

“Chilhowee Park is not managed as a city of Knoxville park by the Parks and Recreation Department, nor does it function as a park or recreation facility,” Rogero said in the statement. “It has, for a number of years, been managed and marketed by the city’s Public Assembly Facilities Department for entertainment events and exhibitions. Therefore, guns will continue to be prohibited at Chilhowee Park, pursuant to state law, including at events such as the Tennessee Valley Fair.”

The second page of the fair guidebook under the heading of safety states, “Please note: no weapons of any kind are permitted at Chilhowee Park. All entrants are subject to search.”

Liston Matthews, a member of the Tennessee Firearms Association and author of the Knoxgunguy blog, said the decision by the city and fair organizers to ban firearms is in conflict with state law.

Matthews said the city of Knoxville, Knox County and the fair organizers are at risk of being sued for violating the civil rights of handgun permit holders under color of state law.

Bill Johns, founder of the Farragut Gun Club, worked to repeal the state ban and the town of Farragut’s ban on guns in parks.

“The July 29th attorney general’s opinion on this topic has already been settled, and it was unambiguously clear. Chilhowee Park is absolutely a park as defined in the legislation and the attorney general’s opinion,” he said.

Johns is also a participant in this year’s Tennessee Valley Fair as a contestant.

“I find it equally ironic that the very same building where my canning goods are being displayed as I delivered them on Wednesday is the same building … the Jacob Building … that gun shows are held in on a regular basis,” he said