COLUMBIA, Tenn. - The city council in Columbia has voted to not opt out of the new "guns in parks" law, opening the way for handgun permit holders to carry their weapons into city parks when the state law takes effect September 1.
Cities and counties have the option of opting out of the law and several, including Goodlettsville, Murfreesboro, Brentwood, Clarksville and Williamson County, already have.
Members of the Columbia City Council voted 5-2 against a measure which would have banned guns in city parks.
On Tuesday, City Manager Paul Boyer, Jr. told The Columbia Daily Herald it has been the city's policy for as far back as he can research to outlaw weapons in the parks.
Boyer said several youth sports organizations and local schools use city fields and said he's concerned that a parent, angry at a child's ball game, could overreact, and with guns allowed, the situation could turn deadly.
Councilwoman Debbie Matthews said the issue was one of rights and the council's decision should be viewed in terms of the Bill of Rights and not one ordinance.
"This is a bigger vote overall," she said. "When I enter a park, I don't want my freedom of speech rights [suppressed]."
Ralph Astarita, a gun rights supporter, agrees and believes the council made the right decision in allowing guns in parks.
He said, "I believe everybody has the right to bear arms if it is legally done. If you are responsible enough to get the permit, I think you are responsible enough to carry it wherever."
"They are not the problem, and in fact, they may pose somewhat of a deterrent. Just by having the ability to pull a jacket back or brandish a weapon can really avert a crime if one is about to happen," Harros said.
Councilwoman Sue Stephenson was one of two council members who voted for the measure.
She says her greatest concern is that allowing guns in recreation areas increases the potential for an accidental shooting.
In Nashville, the Metro Council will take up the issue on Tuesday.
It will be the second of three required readings to opt out of the new law.