published Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Guns haven’t changed state parks

NASHVILLE — In the 15 months since Tennessee handgun-carry permit holders got the right to go armed in state parks, two gun-related incidents have been reported at state facilities and neither resulted in violence, officials said.

“I am pleasantly surprised,” said Tennessee Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke, who in 2009 lobbied against the so-called “guns in parks” bill. “I believed that it was not a good idea.”

The legislation, which took effect in late June 2009, allowed permit holders to go armed in all 53 state parks and 81 state natural areas. The bill included local parks but allowed local governments to opt out. Many, such as Chattanooga, did just that.

Fyke said the law “has not been disruptive” for the most part.

A “major” exception, he said, involved a Dec. 20, 2009, incident in which rangers at Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville stopped Leonard Embody, who had an AK-47-like handgun strapped over his shoulder.

They detained Embody nearly three hours before releasing him without charges after determining he had a lawful carry permit and a legal weapon.

“That was the most alarming case,” Fyke said. “That scared a lot of people at Radnor Lake.”

Embody later was stopped by police in the wealthy Nashville enclave of Belle Meade while openly carrying another pistol, according to news accounts. State Safety Department officials later suspended his carry permit, a spokesman said.

Fyke said the other park case involved a pistol found at Hiwassee State Scenic River’s Gee Creek campground in Polk County.

“A lady left a pink handgun on the back of a commode,” Fyke said. “We found it. She was cited. I think they threw it out of court. But the point was, a kid or someone else could have come in there.”

Department spokeswoman Tisha Calabrese-Benton later confirmed the number of incidents.

During debate on the bill in 2009, proponents argued permit holders needed to be able to protect themselves on state property. But Fyke said then that crimes against people were rare in Tennessee parks and the measure was unneeded.

The law’s main House sponsor, Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, said he is “really not surprised” by the few problems.

“Everybody predicted all these shootouts,” Nicely said. “What they miss is we’re talking about law-abiding citizens here. We’re not talking about crooks.”

Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, noted he had been in “favor of allowing people with permits to carry in state parks.”

But he noted he also “voted to make sure that the local governments had the option of opting in or opting out” for local parks.

McCormick said he hears more talk from constituents about the so-called “guns in bars” law that allows permit holders to go armed in places that sell alcohol as long as they don’t drink and the establishment does not post signs banning weapons.

Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, voted against the guns-in-parks bill.

“We have armed guards there in the parks, and I just do not feel they should be there because we have so many unstable individuals,” she said.

Reciprocal agreements allow permit holders in other states to carry guns in Tennessee parks, Favors noted. And, she said, guns don’t need to be around children.

While there have been no violent incidents in state parks, nine Tennessee permit holders have been involved in 12 shooting deaths since 2008, according to news accounts cited by the Violence Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based group critical of carry permits.

Eight holders were charged by police, according to the center’s website. The ninth was a suicide, the website said.

Earlier this summer in Shelby County, a 60-year-old man was convicted of second-degree murder after he shot another man in a dispute over their parked vehicles.

Tennessee has issued nearly 340,000 handgun-carry permits since 1996. As of July 1, 293,431 Tennesseans held valid handgun permits, according to the Department of Safety’s website.

Niceley said he believes the presence of permit holders overall has helped reduce crime. Statistically speaking, he said, the number of shootings by permit holders is quite low.

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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rolando said...

Yeah, Rep Favors, Tennessee is filled with "unstable individuals".

Some of them are elected to State/Federal Congress.

Come down "off the mountain" and look around, lady. You might -- just might, mind you -- be surprised at how stable we are.

September 12, 2010 at 9:03 a.m.
My2centsworth said...

hahahahahaha... Surprise ... Surprise ... Surprise.

For Fykes and Favors to be Surprised is an understatement. They were hoping that there would be more incidents. Then they would have pranced around saying "I told you so". Well guess what, give the average person some credit. We are not all stupid, lazy or dumb. I can understand your surprise at this outcome because YOU know personally how stupid some people are, look at those who elected you both. Get down off your high horses and mingle with the real people. Listen to us, those to whom you owe your position. Learn the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and govern by them, not your emotions or prejudices. Those are all too often just knee-jerk reactions and show how shallow and narrow minded you really are.

Perhaps you have been in your positions too long as it is.

USSA is one day closer.

September 12, 2010 at 10:08 a.m.
alohaboy said...

Enbody is a harmless wacko but we will never know how many lives have been saved by the ability to carry in state parks.

September 12, 2010 at 10:42 a.m.
whatever said...

A pink handgun?

I'm still chuckling.

September 12, 2010 at 2:05 p.m.
rolando said...

Makes me wonder why she took it out of her bag, whatever. Unless she just stuck it under her belt or through her garter so it wouldn't fall in...

In any case, it was pure a- stupid. A kid COULD have found it. Sure hope that carry permit is suspended for a while.

September 12, 2010 at 9:04 p.m.
chioK_V said...

It's really far to early to tell whether allowing guns in parks are a good thing or bad. Only time will tell. Just because an individual has a gun permit doesn't mean he or she can't also be a wacko.

September 13, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.
Jarhead1982 said...

Lets see, VPC, who has been proven to consistently lie, cited as a source, posts a report, with out context or details to support whether the shootings were justifiable.

Whether the people involved ;

  • actually had a concealed carry permit
  • were permit holders were prosecuted just for carrying in a banned spot or other misdemeanor issue and not just felony murder as the VPC seems to infer. -were actually felons whose permit was issued by error by the state (geez gooberment employee's making a mistake, lol).

(see VPC 2009 report for 137 total over 3 yr time or 45 per year).

This number may be somewhat high when you review the actual data on concealed carry from the states own databases (ref see Florida & Texas for 2.7 million of these as a good example).

Per ATF there are 8 million CPL licensed individuals, that is an approximate average of .00000445 deaths per licensee (ref Florida & Texas data) and you will find this is consistent in all carry states, prove otherwise.

JAMA Journal of American Medical Association 2001 report shows 44k-98k people killed by the 700k doctors in the US due to medical malpractice or between .065 to .14 deaths per doctor.

This means a doctor is 14,000 to 31,000 times more likely to kill you than a person licensed to carry concealed. (.065 or .14/ .00000445)

So proving that doctors are such a public health risk, why isn't this article author crying out in that doctors should be banned eh?

Funny how review of actual shooting incidents, compiled on websites like Keep & Bear Arms show in the last 3 years during the same time as the VPC fantasy report, there were over 500 people saved by defensive gun uses.

Funny how the VPC or the red headed step children of gun control don't ever talk about that.

Funny how the laws of probability, government data on shootings, murders, and injuries, when reviewed with actual police study facts show that guns are indeed used over 3 million times a year in self defense.

Funny how an inanimate object whose only purpose per the VPC is to kill, fails to do so over 95% of the time, the remainder of the time stopping or preventing an attack. Man if I had a job or a purpose and failed to do it over 95% of the time, I would sure try to remedy that wouldn't you? So which of you anti's is going to talk to the Gun Union representatives and talk to all those guns and berate them for failing to kill all the time eh? After all guns have supernatural powers to load, aim and pull the trigger all by themselves right (mental illness belief - Fetishism). These inanimate objects also have the ability using telepathy or their voices so when they are near you, they can command you to commit a violent crime and you must obey right (mental illness belief-schizophrenia)?

You anti's let us know when you have talked to the guns and solved the problem of why they aren't killing everyone they encounter or are not the root cause of violence!

September 15, 2010 at 8:33 a.m.
safesenior said...

Yes, guns kill people, my pencil misspells words, my fork makes me fat, and my garbage can makes garbage. The libs are not concerned with guns as a safety issue. They mean to disarm all law abiding citizens so that we can be made to be "subjects". This is the biggest scam the libs have ever attempted. All successful dictators started by 1) destroying the education system, 2) disarming the public, and 3) putting everyone on welfare. Look around, do you see what I see?

May 1, 2014 at 2:52 a.m.
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