Haslam backs Knoxville’s ban on guns at fair

From the News Sentinel:
Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he agrees with the city of Knoxville’s decision to ban all guns from the Tennessee Valley Fair because Chilhowee Park isn’t a city park as defined by a new state law allowing handgun-carry permit holders to go armed in local parks.

But the governor, who is the former mayor of Knoxville, also said the new Knoxville controversy points to the need to clarify the law when the Tennessee Legislature reconvenes in January.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said Thursday that guns, including those carried by permit holders, won’t be allowed at the fair because the new state law prohibiting cities and counties from banning permit-holders from going armed in local parks under their control doesn’t apply to Chilhowee. Although Chilhowee Park is owned by the city, city officials contend it is not a “park” as defined by the law but rather a “public assembly, entertainment and education venue used for civic events and by contractors for special events.”

Asked Friday about the city’s action, Haslam said, “I’m not a lawyer so I can’t get in there, but I think the mayor’s point there is that by any definition of a city park — it’s not run by the city Parks and Recreation Department — it doesn’t fit that definition. So I’ll trust the city’s law department, the conclusions they’ve come to.”

…The Tennessee Firearms Association issued an “urgent call to action” to its members by email Thursday, encouraging them to call the governor, the mayor and Knoxville Law Director Charles Swanson and ask that the fair “comply with state law.”

TFA Executive Director John Harris said the city’s ban “places permitted citizens at risk of arrest if they attempt to enter Chilhowee Park with their lawfully carried handgun.” He also said it may place the city and the far “at risk of being sued for violating the civil rights of handgun permit holders.”