Subject: Did Tennessee Legislators vote to allow local governments to ban guns in local parks - Knoxville says YES THEY DID!!!!

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August 29, 2017

Did Rep. William Lamberth and almost all other Tennessee Republican Legislators pass a law in 2017 that now allows local governments to close local parks? 

Knoxville says "yipee, yes they did!"

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Tennessee Firearms Association has previously reported on a new law that most legislators supported (perhaps blindly) in 2017 that is now potentially going to create all kinds of abuses and confusion at the local government level.  Why?  Well, if Knoxville is right the 2017 law guts a 2015 law that prohibited local government regulation of public parks and the 2017 allows local governments to resume banning all handgun permit holders from carrying firearms in parks, greenways, and similar locales as long as local governments jump through a few additional steps.

The legislation in question was SB0445/HB508 by Sen. John Stevens and Rep. William Lamberth (Public Chapter 467).  The bill started off ok, but it needed a few tweaks.  The original bill did two things.  First, it provided standing for individuals and interested entities to seek court rulings on whether local governments (like Knoxville and Nashville) are violating certain state laws regarding handgun use, possession, ownership, transfer, etc.   The bill would also allow the recovery of attorneys fees against the local government if it is found in violation by the court.   

The second thing the original bill did was to prohibit any state or local government entity in Tennessee from "posting" the property to ban handgun permit holders unless the entity a) installed metal detectors and b) had at least 1 law enforcement or private security officer properly trained and searching bags and those entering the property.

As this bill went through the broken committee system, it went from ok to worse.  The problems came with respect to the banning of guns in the 2nd half of the bill.  First, the sponsors agreed to remove entirely the "state" from the requirements that guns could only be banned if metal detectors and trained searches were performed.   The second problem was that with respect to local governments the bill was amended to actually expand gun free zones on local government taxpayer funded properties rather than to discourage it.

So, let's look at how this 2017 law has been seized by the City of Knoxville to assert that it can now band guns in public parks and recreational areas!!

After almost 20 years of efforts, Tennessee's handgun permit holders were somewhat relieved in 2015 when the Tennessee Legislature repealed a provision of a 2008 law which had previously allowed local governments to close local parks to handgun permit holders. The 2015 law was not perfect but it was arguably a move in the right direction. It also took some discretion from local governments like Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville which had abused the discretion given to them in 2008.

In 2015, the City of Knoxville thumbed its nose at the newly enacted 2015 law and declared that handgun permit holders would be prosecuted if they carried their handguns into Chilhowee Park while the state fair was present. TFA members sued the city claiming that the closure of the parks was a violation of the recently enacted state law. As of today, the Judge in the case has not ruled on that issue.

However, Knoxville has recently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.  Knoxville argues that a new 2017 law written by Rep. William Lamberth contained a clause which has the potential to effectively restore to local governments the complete authority to ban guns by handgun permit holders on any locally owned or controlled public property notwithstanding any other laws that may exist.

The city argues in its brief:
During the 2017 session of the General Assembly, the legislature amended state law regarding the rights of municipalities to regulate the possession of handguns by permit holders on government-owned property. Among its changes, Public Chapter 467 (the "Act" or "PC 467") made clear that, as long as a local government meets certain prerequisites regarding entry onto government property, including parks, a local government may prohibit entry by individuals with handguns holding valid handgun carry permits.1 The Act took effect on July 1, 2017.

. . .

In summary, the amendments to state gun laws established by the adoption of PC 467 make clear that a municipality and its permittees may prohibit a person with a handgun carry permit from carrying his/her handgun onto any property owned or administered by the municipality, including parks, but only if the entity follows the statutorily prescribed procedure.
At this point the trial court has not decided the issue of whether William Lamberth's 2017 law, which had the support of almost all Republicans, now allows local governments to close any publicly owned property, including parks, greenways and other areas, so long as the minimal requirements of the new law are met.

Whether this is what was intended by Rep. Lamberth and those who voted for it is a matter yet to be determined.

Whether this is the effect of what these legislators did - whether they meant to or not - is a matter now for the Court.

What is clear is that this potential problem that has been seized upon by an abusive local government that is hostile to your 2nd Amendment rights is a problem that must be solved by the Legislature as soon as it resumes work in January 2018.  The question is whether those legislators will realize the problem and deal with it cleanly and swiftly.

Not a single Republican House member voted against this bill although a few did not vote at all.  Similarly, not a single Senate member voted against the bill although one, Senator Beavers was excused for illness and therefore did not vote.

Some might think that banning guns in publicly owned, taxpayer funded parks, greenways, buildings and creating expanded gun free zones is the right thing to do.  Some legislators may have understood this when they voted for the bill.  Some likely did not but just "trusted" the sponsors.  Either way, the effect of this new law is to potentially expand the restrictions on gun owners relative to access to public buildings, public parks, and to increase the number of gun free zones in Tennessee.

If you would like to contact William Lambert you can reach out to him at this contact point:

Rep. William Lamberth
301 6th Avenue North
Suite 22 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-1980
Fax: (615) 253-0336

You might also want to look at the list of legislators who voted for this law and contact them as well.

Tennessee Firearms Association is trying to raise the money now to be effective in the 2018 Election Cycle to support good legislators who will do the right things and to defeat legislators who are working intentionally to infringe your rights.  If you are willing to help, perhaps by chipping in the cost of a box of your favorite ammo, please make a generous (and recurring if possible) donation to the TFA LAC's war chest.

John Harris
Executive Director
Tennessee Firearms Association

PS If you want to help us move to get rid of gun free zones, to enact constitutional carry, and to push back against an unwilling legislative leadership and an uncooperative administration, please consider this request to  join, renew and support the Tennessee Firearms Association.  Asking for your member support of TFA is a call to action both financially and, more importantly, a call to affirmative action of individual engagement in a real battle for the restoration of our rights.

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po box 198722, nashville, Tennessee 37219, United States
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