Tennessee guns-in-parks bill likely headed to conference committee

Tennessee guns-in-parks bill likely headed to conference committee

April 13th, 2015 by Associated Press in Local Regional News

Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, right, and Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, second from right, pass people protesting a bill allowing guns in parks before a House season Monday, April 6, 2015, in Nashville.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee lawmakers anticipate that a special committee will be needed to work out differences in a proposal that would allow people with handgun-carry permits to be armed in all of the state's parks -- including greenways, playgrounds and sports fields.

When the so-called guns-in-parks bill passed overwhelmingly earlier this month, a change was made to add the state Capitol complex to the areas where permit holders could be armed.

The House voted overwhelmingly for the original bill but didn't agree with the change and voted to strip that amendment from the proposal, which was sent back to the Senate. Members of that chamber voted against the change Monday afternoon and sent the measure back to the House.

If the House stands by its action, then a conference committee will be appointed to hammer out differences.

Republican Sen. John Stevens of Huntingdon, the sponsor of the proposal, didn't return a call to The Associated Press earlier Monday seeking comment about his intentions.

But Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville said he expects the proposal to be sent to a conference committee.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey told reporters the same last week.

"I think we'll get something out of conference committee that will be palatable to both houses," said Ramsey, R-Blountville.

Ramsey said such a committee could also clear up confusion over what should happen in the case of parks that are used by schools, an issue that concerns Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. The governor has said there are also "major concerns" about the provision allowing guns on the Capitol grounds.

"The bottom line is I ... want the guns in parks bill to pass," Ramsey said. "I don't want the governor to veto it, or even let it become law without his signature."

A law enacted in 2009 to allow guns in Tennessee parks included an opt-out provision for city and county governments, and more than 70 communities initially decided to keep their gun bans in place.

Opponents argued the law creates confusion for permit holders about where they can legally be armed, and a bill was introduced seeking to end the exemption.

Haslam opposed similar legislation in the past, and as Knoxville mayor supported a 2009 city council vote that kept in place a ban on handguns in some of the city's parks.


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