published Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Judge revives Tennessee gun rights lawsuit

  • photo
    This Dec. 20, 2009 photo provided by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation shows the AK-47-style semiautomatic pistol that 37-year-old Leonard Embody was carrying around Radnor Lake State Park, in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, Dec. 20. Embody was detained by park rangers because his weapon looked like a rifle, but he was released without charges after the weapon was identified and Embody showed his handgun carry permit. The state legislature passed a law earlier this year allowing people with handgun permits to carry their weapons in parks.(AP Photo/Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation)

SHEILA BURKE, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Nashville judge has reversed himself and revived a lawsuit that may determine how much the state of Tennessee can regulate guns.

Leonard Embody, 38, of Brentwood, filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee last year after it took away his permit to carry a firearm. He claimed the state violated his constitutional right to bear arms.

Last month Davidson County Chancellor Russell Perkins dismissed Embody's lawsuit against the state, saying that Tennessee was well within its authority to regulate "constitutionally protected weapons."

Embody, who is representing himself, asked the judge to reconsider his decision to dismiss the suit, arguing that the judge failed to address his challenge under the Second Amendment and in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that expanded gun rights. That 2008 decision held that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to own a firearm for self-defense.

Last week, Perkins reversed himself, saying that Embody had filed a "respectful, well-crafted" request for relief.

Embody did not respond to a message from the Associated Press seeking comment.

"This decision provides both parties the opportunity to further develop the record," Sharon Curtis-Flair, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Attorney General's office, said in an e-mail. "Since the plaintiff is representing himself, we consider this an opportunity to ensure he feels he has had his day in court."

Embody has said that the state had no right to take his gun carry permit away because he committed no crime. The suit says the state revoked the gun permit after finding there was a "material likelihood of risk of harm to the public."

Embody made news last year after carrying an AK-47-style pistol across his chest while walking around in a state park. He has also been stopped by police at least three other times in similar incidents. Last year police in the suburb of Belle Meade detained Embody after he walked down the street with a .44-caliber black powder revolver in his hand.

Gun rights activists have criticized Embody, saying his provocative style hurts their cause.

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