Should guns be allowed in parks? - WKRN News 2

Should guns be allowed in parks?

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Should guns owners with permits be allowed to carry their weapons in parks?

Several bills relating to that question are on the move through the legislature.

One would allow guns in state parks.  There are 53 Tennessee parks, including three in Davidson County; Radnor Lake, Bicentennial Mall, and Long Hunter State Park.

A second bill, which passed through a subcommittee, addresses the issue for national and local parks in Tennessee.

The provision concerning national parks, such as the Smokey Mountains, would simply follow federal guidelines.

The subcommittee approved an amendment which applies to local parks.

It would give each local government the authority to legalize guns in their parks as long as the carrier has a permit.

Metro Parks' officials oppose the idea.

"Our parks are safe.  Our parks are for children and we don't need guns in parks when you have so many people enjoying our parks," said Director Roy Wilson.  "We have events that draw thousands and thousands of people and whenever you draw thousands and thousands of people to an event, tempers are going to flare.  'You stepped on my foot and didn't say excuse me' or ‘you took the parking space that I wanted.'  All of a sudden, here comes a gun."

Metro police spokesman Don Aaron echoed the sentiment, telling News 2 Metro police "strongly oppose" guns in parks, especially at youth events.

Aaron said it is not conducive to the spirit in sporting events, with children playing a game on a field, while adults are in the stands with guns.

Metro has 112 parks, from the small pocket park on Church Street, to the Warner Parks and Nature Center on the west side of the city.

They cover nearly 11,000 acres, and include ball fields, soccer fields, playgrounds, swimming pools, community centers and golf courses.

The Parks Department also has 36.5 miles of greenway, and operates 49 playgrounds on school property.

Even if Metro does not legalize guns in parks, the sponsor of the bill believes some communities will welcome the chance to change their laws.

State Representative Harry Tindell said, "In Knoxville, for instance, where I'm from, the bike trail, there have been numerous violent crimes in that area, very isolated in part of the city.  That is a park, and if the bike rider might have a weapon with them, it might cause the perpetrators to think twice."

The Knoxville Democrat thinks the amended version of the bill, giving local governments the chance to chose, is the best option.

Previously, the bill would have legalized guns in all federal and local parks.

One move by Nashville Democrat Janice Sontany to ban guns in all local parks did not pass in committee.

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