GUNS IN PARKS
The Tennessee law to allow guns in parks takes effect Sept. 1. Cities and counties must approve an ordinance if they want to ban guns in parks.
* Chattanooga, Hamilton County, the towns of East Ridge, Signal Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Tenn., and Walden all have banned guns in parks.
* Collegedale, Red Bank and Soddy-Daisy have chosen to allow guns in parks.
New places where permit holders can carry guns:
* Public parks unless the park has signs posted to ban weapons or if a school athletic event is occurring.
* Restaurants, even those that serve alcohol, as long as the holder does not consume alcohol.
Weapons are never allowed in these settings or conditions:
1. Judicial proceedings.
2. Public or private college, university or school buildings or bus, campus, grounds, or recreation areas.
3. While consuming alcohol in any setting.
4. When individuals, businesses and government entities post signs banning the possession of a firearm.
Source: Tennessee Department of Safety
Since Tennessee law was changed to allow licensed concealed-carry gun permit holders to bring firearms into restaurants that serve alcohol, establishments are choosing to post signs banning weapons while others take a pass.
"I don't have a problem with the law, but there's just no reason to have a gun in here," said Steven Collins, a manager at Pisa Pizza in North Chattanooga. "Putting the sign up is just ... a preventative measure, really."
Some restaurants are allowing patrons to carry weapons onto the premises.
"We oppose the law, but we don't plan to post a sign prohibiting weapons," said Michael Hennen, manager of Hennen's restaurant in downtown Chattanooga.
Before this year's legislative session, carry-permit holders were not allowed to carry guns in restaurants that serve alcohol or in public parks.
But lawmakers approved bills allowing guns in parks and in alcohol-serving restaurants as long as the gun owners don't drink. Cities can vote to ban guns in parks, and restaurants can post signs prohibiting concealed weapons.
At Hooters, diners can get their fill of hot wings, but not if they want to carry a firearm inside.
"We believe the vast majority of our patrons and employees feel safer knowing that guns are not being carried into Hooters restaurants," said Melissa M. Bauer, a lawyer for the restaurant's management group, RMD Corp.
The law doesn't apply to bars, even those that have food menus. Those establishments are off-limits to permit holders.
The Chattanooga Billiard Club -- which is open only to people over 21 -- is making sure patrons know the law, with a sign banning the weapons.
"Early on, there was a lot of confusion about the law," said proprietor Phil Windham. "I decided to go ahead and put up the sign just to err on the side of caution."
Mr. Windham said he is a licensed permit holder and supports the efforts of the bill but thinks many people misunderstood its intentions.
"I think it's good that we have the right to bear firearms and that there is a proper process for us to apply and obtain a permit to carry it," he said.
Mr. Stevens said Pisa Pizza decided to bar guns out of caution, even though he thinks the criminal element probably would bring firearms inside no matter what.
"It seems to me that if there is any kind of incident, at least we can say, 'Hey, we did what we could,'" Mr. Stevens said.
Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...