Tag Archives: parks

Haslam: Legislators should review ‘guns in parks’

From Richard Locker:
Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday lawmakers should review the guns-in-parks law they approved in April in the wake of an attorney general’s opinion that said cities, counties and third-party contractors cannot ban permit-holders from going armed in paid, ticketed events like concerts and other events in local parks.

“I think that’s a really good example of something that I would urge the Legislature to go back and say, are there specific situations — now that you have the attorney general’s opinion — that you want to provide clarity to,” the governor told reporters.

Haslam declined to be drawn into a discussion about Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s remarks, in the wake of the fatal shooting of a Memphis police officer Saturday night, that there are too many guns on the streets. Asked about the mayor’s remarks, the governor said, “I think we’ll wait. My reaction always when there’s an incident like this is, rather than react in the heat of it, let’s go back and look and see — where was the weapon that used to murder the police officer? Where was it obtained? Was it obtained legally or not?

“Lets go back and look through all that. If people are doing things illegally, it doesn’t matter the law we set up. They’re going to find their way around that. Like we’ve done in several of these other tragic situations, let’s drill down and see exactly what happened,” he said.

The state Legislature approved a bill in April abolishing the authority of municipal and county governments to ban handgun-carry permit-holders from carry guns in locally owned and operated parks under their control. When Haslam signed the bill into law on April 24, he wrote a letter to legislative leaders saying, “I am concerned that an unintended consequence may be operational challenges for local leaders in managing their parks in a safe, effective and consistent manner, due to events and situations that could not have been anticipated in drafting this law.”

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.

AG says guns OK in parks, even if they’re leased out for a concert

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An attorney general’s opinion says private organizations can’t prevent licensed handgun permit holders from taking weapons into events the groups operate at public parks.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1I5qC8D ) reports the opinion said under a new state law, local governments can’t prohibit permit holders from taking handguns to parks and therefore can’t delegate the authority to anyone else.

Organizers of events at Nashville’s new Ascend Amphitheater and next year’s Memphis in May celebration have told The Tennessean they planned to ban guns. But the attorney general’s opinion Wednesday seems to say they’re not allowed to ban guns carried by legally licensed permit holders.

Senate Democratic Leader Lee Harris of Memphis, who opposed the new law and requested the opinion, says he’s speaking to others about the opinion and believes it could have “negative implications across the state.”

Note: The full opinion is HERE.

Four TN cemeteries involved in U.S. House Confederate flag fight

By the Associated Press
House Republicans on Thursday withdrew a proposal that would have permitted the limited display of the Confederate flag at National Park Service-run cemeteries in states that observe a holiday commemorating the Confederacy, and only at the graves of rebels who died in the Civil War.

A list of the cemeteries that the plan would have affected. States observe Confederate Memorial Day at different times:


Andersonville National Cemetery, Andersonville National Historic Site


Chalmette National Cemetery, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, New Orleans


Vicksburg National Cemetery, Vicksburg National Military Park


Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Greenville

Fort Donelson National Cemetery, Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Dover

Shiloh National Cemetery, Shiloh National Military Park

Stones River National Cemetery, Stones River National Battlefield, Murfreesboro


Fredericksburg National Cemetery, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

Poplar Grove National Cemetery, Petersburg National Battlefield

Yorktown National Cemetery, Colonial National Historical Park

Note: In Tennessee, “Confederate Decoration Day” is on June 3, the birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. This year’s proclamation, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, is HERE.

Some national media accounts of the debate: New York Times HERE; Politico HERE; Fox News HERE.

Alexander pushes James K. Polk’s Columbia home as national park

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
WASHINGTON, June 4, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has introduced legislation directing the Secretary of the Interior to take the next step in preserving former President James K. Polk’s home in Columbia, Tenn. as a “national treasure.”

“Tennessee is full of history, and the presidency of James K. Polk is one of our state’s great contributions to our nation’s history,” Alexander said. “Columbia’s dedicated residents are making progress, and this special resource study is the next step in the process toward preserving President Polk’s home and belongings and elevating the site to the national treasure it deserves to be.”

In April, the survey found that the James K. Polk Home is nationally significant and could meet the criteria for inclusion in the National Park System. In 2013, Alexander sent a letter to the director of the National Park Service requesting that the organization conduct a reconnaissance survey of the James K. Polk Home to determine its significance and sustainability as a unit of the National Park System.

Today, Alexander introduced the James K. Polk Home Study Act requesting the Secretary of Interior to conduct a special resource study for the James K. Polk Home and evaluate the suitability and feasibility of designating the site as a unit of the National Park System. Once the study is completed, the findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate. Alexander is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The James K. Polk Home is the only surviving home of the eleventh American president. President Polk is most notably remembered for his help in acquiring 800,000 square miles of territory during his administration and extending our country’s border west to the Pacific Ocean, which today makes up California and much of the Southwestern United States. His last act as president was to sign the bill that created the Department of the Interior, the agency that includes the National Park Service.

His childhood home is managed by dedicated members of the James K. Polk Memorial Association and contains more than 1,300 artifacts and original items from the president’s years in Tennessee and Washington, D.C, including furniture, White House artifacts, and political memorabilia.

Note: “History Bill” Carey, executive director of Tennessee History for Kids, points out that the Columbia house was the boyhood home of Polk, actually owned by his parents, and that the former president’s own Nashville residence was torn down in 1907. His review of the Polk and his homes (with pictures) is HERE.

Move afoot to ban guns from some park events despite new ‘guns-in-parks’ law

Nashville city officials and an event organizer in Memphis say they plan to still prohibit guns at certain parks, despite a new state law that nixes any bans on people with permits taking guns to public parks, according to The Tennessean.

(The new law) poses a potential problem for the new Ascend Amphitheater planned for West Riverfront Park. National entertainment company Live Nation will operate the amphitheater and it has a company policy against allowing guns at any of its events.

Metro Director of Law Saul Solomon said he thinks the Metro legal department found a solution.

“We’re in the view that we can probably prohibit weapons in the new amphitheater,” Solomon said Tuesday.

He acknowledged the property is a public park, but said he thinks the new law shouldn’t apply to the amphitheater. That’s because the law references taking guns to areas owned, used or operated by a local government “for recreational purposes.”

Solomon said Metro will argue attending a concert doesn’t fall under the definition of a “recreational purpose.”

“When we think of ‘recreating,’ it’s somebody going out and doing something, not somebody sitting around,” Solomon said.

The phrase “recreational purpose” is defined in state law, and the definition includes passive activities such as “picnicking” and “viewing or enjoying” scenic sites. But the definition isn’t in the same part of the law that addresses guns in parks, so it’s unclear whether it applies in this case.

(There are also plans to ban guns at the Memphis in May celebration that draws thousands each year.)

…The biggest events take place at Tom Lee Park, along the Mississippi River. Memphis has a “management agreement” with the nonprofit Riverfront Development Corporation, which leases Tom Lee Park to the Memphis in May International Festival, another private entity, for the Memphis in May events.

Event organizers ban guns and other weapons at the park. Memphis in May International Festival President and CEO Jim Holt said the new law won’t change anything for the event.

“As a producer of events, we have the right to stipulate rules and guidelines for patrons entering the leased park space to attend our events,” Holt said in an emailed statement.

“We prohibit any type of weapon, including pocketknives and we have other restrictions such as food and beverages, chairs, umbrellas, cameras, selfie sticks, etc. for patrons that attend our events.”

Holt is “clearly” wrong, said state Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris.

“We don’t have the right to ban guns in our parks, so we can’t give that right to a leasee,” said Harris, a Democrat, former Memphis city councilman and professor of law at the University of Memphis School of Law.

…Memphis in May events are already underway. The Memphis in May International Festival website still says guns are banned in Tom Lee Park.

Democrats criticize Haslam for signing guns-in-parks bill

Democrats are criticizing Gov. Bill Haslam for signing the guns-in-parks bill, reports the Times-Free Press, including a tweet from House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, R-Ripley:

“Not vetoing #GunsInParks is an absolute failure of leadership.”

“All along the governor says one thing and then turns around and does another,” charged Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, in an interview. “And that’s just politics at its worst in my view. That’s what politicians do. And this on the face of it appears to be kind of cave in to the special interest groups, the NRA.”

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton was not as harsh in a long statement included at the end of the Commercial Appeal story on Haslam signing the bill. An excerpt:

“I’m disappointed in the legislation. I can understand precisely what the governor did: It would probably create a greater head of steam had he vetoed it. They (lawmakers) would have pulled right back together and did an override on the veto. But I’m very interested in what he said: It’s one thing to sign it but then look at it when it gets down to the local level, how do you operationalize it?

…Here’s what I worry about at the local level: Once someone is shot by somebody . . . in a park, they’re going to blame the police department. You know why? They’re going to say, your officer saw that man come in here with that automatic gun, yet your officer didn’t really watch him. If my officer watches him and he happens to be a black guy, guess what that officer just did. Profiling. How are we going to operationalize that, because we’ve got this law up here now out of the state about disproportionate minority contact.

AP story on Haslam signing ‘guns-in-parks’ bill

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Local governments in Tennessee can no longer bar people with handgun carry permits from bringing firearms to parks, playgrounds and sports fields under legislation signed Friday by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

In a letter to the speakers of the House and Senate, Haslam said he remains concerned about potential unintended consequences for local leaders, but called the final version of the legislation a “vast improvement” from when it was first introduced.

“The final version of the bill made clear that guns are not allowed at school-related activities taking place in parks,” Haslam said in the letter. (Note: Full text HERE.)

Critics of the measure disagree, arguing that the language is still vague because it bans guns “within the immediate vicinity” of school activities, but does not define a specific distance. The law carries no exemptions for playgrounds, greenways or ball fields where no school activities are taking place.

The contentious bill was drafted as a welcome gift from gun-friendly Tennessee lawmakers to the more than 70,000 people who attended the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Nashville earlier this month.

Democrats have been vocal critics, arguing it would endanger children playing Little League or climbing on jungle gyms.
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Haslam: Still concerned about ‘guns-in-parks’ bill, but I’m signing it anyhow

Gov. Bill Haslam today signed into law the “guns-in-parks” bill, though saying in a letter to legislators that he still has concerns about the measure (HB995).

“Overall, I believe the legislation in its final form is a vast improvement from the bill as initially introduced,” the governor wrote. “However, I am concerned that an unintended consequence may be the operational challenges for local leaders in managing their parks in a safe, consistent and effective manner, due to events and situations that could not have been anticipated in drafting this law.”

“I think that it is critical going forward that we work together with local leaders to assess the impact of this law and that we all listen and respond to the questions and concerns of those leaders as they work to implement it successfully,” Haslam said.

(Note: Text of the governor’s letter is available by clicking on this link: HB 995 letter )

Under provisions of the bill, the new law took effect upon the governor’s signature. Legislators originally intended to have it in place when the National Rifle Association held its annual convention in Nashville — but a series of legislative maneuvering delayed passage until after the convention left town.

As ultimately approved, the bill has some interesting provisions. The compromise plan was worked out by a House-Senate conference committee. It says, for example, that local governments can leave in place signs declaring that guns are prohibited in their parks, even though the sign is now invalid. And it’s it makes a stab at resolving a potential conflict with other provisions of state law that declare guns cannot be brought onto property being used for school activities.

As explained by The Tennessean:

After a lengthy back and forth — which included proposals to allow guns in the statehouse and to ban squirt guns or other imitation weapons around school property — lawmakers came up with a compromise that includes language about guns and school events at parks.

The bill says that someone with a handgun permit may not be within the “immediate vicinity” of a school-sanctioned event at a park while that event is underway. The law doesn’t define “immediate vicinity,” but says once that (once a) person is made aware that they are within that “immediate vicinity” they must leave (the person can store their gun properly and return and be within the law).

“Our administration raised the need for clarification of this issue during the legislative process, and it received additional discussion on the floors of the Senate and the House as local schools boards weighed it with concerns,” Haslam wrote in the letter.

“To the sponsors’ credit, they were receptive to these concerns, and the final version of the bill made clear that guns are not allowed at school-related activities taking place in parks.”

On the other hand, if there are children around for an event not related to school activity — for example, a Little League baseball game — the permit holder may bring his or her gun into the local park.

‘Guns in parks’ bill goes to the governor

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Legislation that would allow handgun-carry permit holders to be armed in all of the state’s parks — including greenways, playgrounds and sports fields — was sent to the governor for his consideration Thursday.

Both the Senate and House overwhelmingly approved a conference committee report on the proposal.

The measure strips a provision that would have allowed permit holders to be armed at the state Capitol complex.

It keeps a ban on guns at school events, but the ban would not apply to playgrounds and other sports fields that aren’t used by schools.

Haslam opposed the state Capitol provision, and said there was some confusion in the original legislation about what should happen in the case of parks that are adjacent to schools.

The proposal sent to the governor states that if a school — or public college or university — is using a park then a permit holder “cannot be within the immediate vicinity of the school activity.”

During debate in the conference committee earlier this week, an amendment was discussed that would specify a certain distance from the school, but it wasn’t given serious consideration.
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