published Thursday, May 28th, 2009

No guns in parks here, please

The Legislature’s inexplicable obsession for expanding gun-carry rights in Tennessee may soon force local governments to decide whether to ban or allow guns in municipal and county parks. Local officials don’t have to knuckle under to the rash legislative rush to open parks to gun-toting citizens, however. When the issue arrives, they should unite to ban the presence of guns in our local parks.

The issue clearly seems to be headed our way. Both chambers of the Legislature have agreed by strong majorities to approve the guns-in-parks bill, which was sent this week to Gov. Bredesen to sign into law. The governor hasn’t said whether he will sign the bill, veto it, or leave it unsigned for 10 days to become law without his signature. Yet even a veto isn’t likely to stop the bill’s freight-train rush into law.

It takes just a simple majority vote in both chambers to override a gubernatorial veto. The votes in both chambers in support of the guns-in-parks bill, among other gun-rights bills, were well above that margin.

Local officials can’t duck

If it becomes law as expected, local officials would not be able to duck the issue. The bill provides blanket approval for licensed citizens to carry guns in state and local parks unless the local governing bodies with jurisdiction for those parks specifically enact local ordinances to ban firearms in them. Approval or denial is all-or-nothing, as well. The law wouldn’t permit local officials to allow guns in some local parks, but not in others.

That first half of the law puts increased political pressure on local governing bodies to allow licensed gun-carry rights. It would have been easier politically on local governments to reject the bill if it had required them initially to approve a local option on gun-rights, rather than requiring them to enact a ban to prevent the carrying of firearms. That semantic maneuver may fuel controversy.

Given the number of local parks that go unpatrolled by police, however, that provision should give local officials good reason to enact a gun-carry ban.

Concern for the unarmed

There are simply too many small parks and greenways to patrol regularly. Allowing the open carrying of guns is bound to precipitate a heightened sense of apprehension among the majority of citizens who do not carry guns and don’t expect to see other civilians carrying guns in our parks.

Further, Tennessee’s experience with the state’s system for approval of gun-carry permits is troubling. Gun carry permits, now held by roughly 220,000 of Tennesseans, or less than 4 percent, allow permit holders to carry handguns either visibly or concealed. Reporters for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, however, recently found that permits had been given to 1,200 felons in recent years. They also found that several permit holders had been involved recently in deadly shootings.

The Legislature’s obtuse response was not to tighten gun-carry-permit rules, but to close public access to the public state records of permit holders. None of that is comforting.

In fact, both police officers and the vast majority of citizens who do not wish to carry guns should not have to wonder if any gun-carrying visitors they pass in local parks — or state parks and recreation areas, for that matter — are licensed to carry guns or balanced enough to use them responsibly.

Similar Republican-sponsored legislation inserted into the Credit Card bill-of-rights just passed by Congress, and signed by President Obama, also will allow licensed gun-carry rights in national parks and recreation areas. It reportedly has many park police officers wondering how to deal with visitors whom they may see carrying guns. If they find them in a secluded area, should they risk provoking them by asking to see their gun-carry permits? Will they endanger other people? Will they shoot or poach wildlife?

Miles of secluded trails

Those may seem more appropriate questions for expansive national parks and forests, such as the Chickamauga-Chattanooga Battlefield and the nearby Cherokee national forest. But they are broadly pertinent, as well, to visitors in occasionally isolated stretches of Harrison Bay State Park, the Riverwalk, the Brainerd Levee and the South and North Chickamauga Greenways. The miles of trails on the portion of Stringer’s Ridge that is set to become a park may also seem foreboding if gun-carry rights expand.

Gun-rights advocates generally claim that gun-carry permit holders are usually responsible citizens who intend only to defend themselves from criminals, who may carry concealed weapons illegally. But that argument ignores other grounds for concern.

Raising random gun violence

Even trained police officers, studies show, are not always prepared to defend against a stealthy criminal who surprises them with a drawn weapon. And if they do shoot under duress, they may well miss their target, or be shot themselves. Certainly most ordinary citizens are not adequately trained to use guns safely under duress or surprise, and most had rather not put themselves in such a lethal situation. That’s why, as a society, we have police forces.

In that perspective, providing gun-carry rights for the few who embrace such rights does little more for other citizens than add to the growing and cumulative threat of more needless, random gun violence.

Municipal and county officials here should do what state lawmakers failed to do when the embraced the National Rifle Association’s agenda of expanding gun rights across the nation at the state level. They should say no to the spread of gun-carry rights in our local parks.

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EaTn said...

The state legislation actions will not only pass the buck on carrying guns into parks but it will also pass the buck on carrying guns to the owners of eating establishments that serve alcohol.

May 28, 2009 at 4:44 a.m.
rolando said...

The RIGHT "to keep and bear" is exactly that...a RIGHT, not some liberal's opinion of what he or she thinks the people should be allowed to have.

Our US Constitution and the legislatures only acknowledge that overarching RIGHT, they do NOT "provide" it nor do only certain people have it...EVERY citizen is born with it.

The Bill of Rights merely listed certain inborn and inalienable rights of the citizens and, to stress their importance, deserving of special mention by the Founders.

The author of this piece evidently received a liberal professor's twisted opinion of the meaning of the Constitution and US History in general...or is [again] deliberately distorting it.

Makes one wonder what his true agenda is...

May 28, 2009 at 7:13 a.m.
rolando said...

All the owners need do is say "NO!" to guns on their property, EaTn, and that is the end of it.

One little word with all that power.

May 28, 2009 at 7:16 a.m.
CarlinChicago said...

"Given the number of local parks that go unpatrolled by police, however, that provision should give local officials good reason to enact a gun-carry ban."

Astoundingly obtuse statement. Evidence shows that licensed carriers make society more safe, not less. If anything, that parks go unpatrolled by police is precisely justification NOT to enact a carry ban.

Chattanooga Times ... the alternative that you suggest is that people simply hope they don't become victims or hope the police arrive in time. What you are doing is encouraging dependency and helplessness. Those of us who understand our just place in society cannot accept what you suggest we do.

May 28, 2009 at 7:39 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

+1 to rolando and CarlinChicago.

It is very important for citizens to be able to carry weapons in parks ... particularly in wild, natural areas where (unlike city streets) not all the predators are human. Case in point:

"At that point, you know, Nils called 911 and picked up a rock and threw it [at the mountain lion].

(My note: calling 911 in a remote area, even if you can get signal for your cell phone, means a really long wait for help to arrive.)

"I picked up two rocks and the first rock I hit in the rear hindquarters of the mountain lion and it didn't move with these first two rocks. The third one I hit in the front shoulder and that's when it finally let go and ran into the brush."

This person was extremely lucky that the mountain lion ran off instead of turning to attack him. I'd like to be able to face the killer cat with a 9mm instead of rocks if I was in that situation.

Our legislature has wisely removed the ban on carrying guns in parks. How about giving it a chance before encouraging local governments and property owners to gut the new law?

May 28, 2009 at 7:50 a.m.
Sailorman said...

And the editorial hysteria continues. Remember, when being attacked, you can take action immediately 1. Call 911 and 2. Scream loudly. Can't you guys find anything important to talk about? You know, like jobs and the economy or the dismal state of our education system. Or do those not generate enough clicks?

May 28, 2009 at 8:59 a.m.
moonpie said...

I can understand banning carrying in certain areas such as airplanes, courtrooms and even bars.

But if we allow permit holders to carry guns on our city streets and sidewalks, I can't fathom why we would not allow them to carry in state and municipal parks.

Either we have a second ammendment, or we don't.

May 28, 2009 at 9:04 a.m.
streetsmart said...

So , to ban us law abiding citizens from carrying a legal weapon. We are telling the criminal element , "Here's some free pickings. They are unarmed and defenseless.Go get em'." You can bet,the criminal's don't care what the law says. I would feel more comfortable unarmed in the wild than I would in any park in and around Chattanooga. That's why I don't visit the Riverwalk (bicycle free-for-all circus path)or Cooledge park.

May 28, 2009 at 9:21 a.m.
queeni said...

Folks don't be naive, citizens whether law abiding or criminal will still carry in locations they are not technically not suppose to. Either way wouldn't you want to at least know there were some good people out there who are armed that could come to your aid if you needed it? Just something to think about the next time someone is being forced into a car against their will or a child is being abducted in a park.

May 28, 2009 at 9:58 a.m.
chatt31 said...

I do not agree with carrying hand gun in parks-- parks are for families- children and I do not think guns should be present. also I am against hand gun in bars-- I don't understand- now they want to allow guns in bars and parks-- What is next?

May 28, 2009 at 10:29 a.m.
SCOTTYM said...

There is a poll on this subject running at

The anti's are down in a big way. :)

May 28, 2009 at 11:44 a.m.
joshkotw said...

This is a very slanted and bogus editorial. I'm starting to wonder why I even click on these links. If nothing else, it is entertaining to see the fantasy world where this editorial writer lives.

Lots of claims but little facts. Makes legit gun owners and permit holders appear to be the criminal element when the opposite is true. The criminals don't care about the laws, hence the term criminal and not law-abiding citizen.

Has the editorial writer ever been on the Greenways or Brainerd Levee and been assaulted or threatened by random homeless vagrants? Come back with an opinion when they've taken your money and you barely escaped with your life.

See the recent case in GA at the Silver Comet Trail where the female was killed by a random homeless rapist. The jury decided he should get the death penalty which certainly justifies any self defense actions the now deceased female could have taken. The female did not have time or opportunity to call 911 and she was expired by the time they would have arrived.

Wake up Times Free Press, come back over and visit us in Chattanooga where gang violence and crime is an every day scenario for too many of our citizens.

May 28, 2009 at 12:29 p.m.
rolando said...

A most excellent series of posts on this important subject.

It's 3-to-1 in favor of packing, SCOTTYM.

May 28, 2009 at 3:55 p.m.
cave_demon said...

Reading the comments on here, it looks as though two different issues are being discussed. Guns in city/county/neighborhood parks and guns in national parks. I don't have a problem with the recent guns in national parks bill, although I do worry that some cowboy will pull a South Park-esque "they're comin' right for us!" and use that as an excuse to kill a bear or cougar. On the other hand, if a bear or cougar actually is comin' right for you, you better hope you're packin' or that you get really lucky. Guns in local city parks is bit trickier. I know every permit holder thinks that they are better at enforcing the law than law enforcement, but what good would carrying a gun in a city park really do? Say there's some "crazed gunman" in a park randomly shooting people. Perfectly believeable in today's America. We're supposed to trust Jim Bob Permit Holder to protect us? What if he misses the "crazed gunman" and shoots the kid/kids behind/near the shooter"? Is Jim Bob now the "crazed gunman" randomly shooting people? Does Jethro Joe Permit Holder then shoot Jim Bob? It just seems like a can or worms that doesn't need to be opened.

May 28, 2009 at 6:42 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

cave_demon, "South Park-esque "they're comin' right for us!"" LOL, those characters are hilarious. You raise a good point. To be honest though, two legged animals are a lot more scary.

"What if he misses the "crazed gunman" and shoots the kid/kids behind/near the shooter"?

No matter the intent, the shooter owns every bullet he/she launches, and is responsible for all damage to people or property. One of the big points that is repeatedly hit on in training is to check the area beyond the target. I am extremely concerned about this very scenario myself and have no intention of ever letting one fly without a near 100% chance of intercepting the intended target. Most HCP holders are the same and we use hollowpoint ammo to help insure that the bullet dumps it's energy in the right place instead of flying on through and hitting an innocent.

I am much more fearful of the average teenage driver than HCP holders, goodness knows young drivers kill a lot more people.

May 28, 2009 at 7:19 p.m.
stationr said...

Once you get into the gun mentality, you can't EVER be without your gun. Why, you'd be walking naked in public without it! Carry your gun to the park, to church, keep it within reach while you sleep, embrace your fear, love your gun!

May 28, 2009 at 10:59 p.m.
moonpie said...


If someone opens fire in a city park, all bets are off.

I'll risk the permit holder, in this case.

May 28, 2009 at 11:04 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

moonpie says, "But if we allow permit holders to carry guns on our city streets and sidewalks, I can't fathom why we would not allow them to carry in state and municipal parks."

/sarc/ But, if they cross that invisible line, they become raging maniacs!!!/sarc/

You have hit this one dead center. Thank you for your open minded rationality.

May 30, 2009 at 2:51 a.m.
groats said...

I find it interesting - and frightening - that so many people believe a piece of paper can stop a bullet fired by a criminal.

Just a hint for the logic-impaired: murder is ALREADY illegal, as is rape and armed robbery. Are you saying these don't happen? Because we DO have laws against them. What makes your NEW law any better?

Until you can provide each park visitor with an armed, certified peace officer, you have NO business telling anyone they cannot protect themselves and their children.

June 1, 2009 at 2:53 p.m.
hurleybt said...

We should ban all guns... because, "Please, Mr. Robber, don't shoot/stab/rape my wife and/or kids," works every time.

June 2, 2009 at 1:54 p.m.
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