NASHVILLE - Tennessee cities and counties would lose their ability to ban guns from local parks under legislation that passed the Senate this morning.
Senators approved the bill on a largely partisan 26-7 vote. The measure now goes to the House.
The bill applies only to holders of state-issued handgun permits.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and leaders of the state's other largest cities have objected to the legislation as an infringement on local perogatives by the state.
But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, argued the state should never have ceded authority on the issue back in 2009 when the original "guns in parks" law passed.
Campfield said local ordinances differ from local government to local government, confusing permit holders. Moreover, he said pointing to Knoxville, visitors to a local greenway can go armed on the county portion of a green way while they can't on the city portion.
Republicans easily defeated an amendment by Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, that would have required cities and counties to remove signs banning guns.
He said allowing them to leave them up would mislead people and potentially leave them open to getting sued in the event of a shooting.
Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said no local mayor had called him to voice a position pro or con on the bill and thus would be voting for it. Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, voted for the bill as well.
An amendment on the bill prohibits permit holders to carry their firearms in areas when school activities take place. If passed by the House, the bill would take effect July 1.
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, ...