Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he has “major concerns” about a measure supported by fellow Republicans in the Legislature seeking to do away with local government’s power to decide whether to allow firearms in public parks.
The Legislature in 2009 gave city and county governments the ability to opt out of a new law that allowed people with handgun carry permits to be armed in public parks, playgrounds and sports fields.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville that would do away with local control over guns has drawn the support of fellow Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville.
When Haslam was Knoxville mayor, he supported a 2009 city council vote that kept in place a ban on handguns in some of the city’s parks.
“I have a concern about that in the sense of I think if that property belongs to local governments then their locally elected officials should be able to decide what happens to that property,” Haslam told reporters.
Asked whether he opposes the measure, the governor said: “The way I understand it now, I have some major concerns.”
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has written to lawmakers to express concerns about the measure.
“While I support the Second Amendment right to own firearms, there are legitimate public safety concerns as to where and when people can possess guns,” Dean said.
“As mayor of a large city, public safety has to be of my utmost concern,” he said. “Put simply, I believe guns in Nashville parks is a bad idea.”
Ramsey told reporters earlier that the state shouldn’t defer to local governments on important issues such as gun rights.
“When it comes to something that’s as basic as a Second Amendment right, that’s something the state ought to set,” he said.
Ramsey, an ardent states’ rights advocate, said he doesn’t see any parallels in relations between state and local governments.
“To say we don’t’ tell local governments what to do, we do it every day,” Ramsey said. “There is a difference between us and the federal government. Local governments are a political subdivision of us.”
The bill is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
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