East Ridge changes course to ban weapons

East Ridge changes course to ban weapons

August 14th, 2009 by Adam Crisp in News

VOTING RECORD

How East Ridge officials voted on a proposed gun ban in public parks.

* Mayor Mike Steele - yes

* Vice Mayor Tom Card - yes

* Councilman Brent Lamber - yes

* Councilman Larry Sewell - yes

* Councilman Denny Manning - not present

OTHER AREAS

* Chattanooga, Hamilton County, the towns of Signal Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Tenn., and Walden, have joined East Ridge in banning guns in parks.

* Red Bank and Soddy-Daisy have voted to allow guns in parks.

On the second try, East Ridge councilmen reversed previous inaction on a guns-in-parks measure and decided unanimously to ban firearms permit holders from carrying weapons in any city park.

That Thursday vote was the second time a motion about the issue had come before town leaders. Last month, the same proposal failed because only one council member appeared to support the motion. It didn't get a second, so no vote was taken.

Thursday, City Manager William Whitson recommended councilmen vote for the ban, because of adverse financial consequences if athletic tournaments decided not to play at sprawling Camp Jordan Park. He also warned of complications by a Tennessee attorney general's opinion that school athletics couldn't be played at parks that allowed guns.

"If we don't pass (this resolution), I will be forced to write the principal of East Ridge High School ... and they will have to decide whether to cancel their events at Camp Jordan," Mr. Whitson said.

Members of the public pleaded their case for and against the measure before the council. Mayor Mike Steele, however, limited comments Thursday to just three parties on either side of the issue.

Councilman Brent Lambert, the body's newest member, said the decision was agonizing.

"There really is not a right opinion on this issue," Mr. Lambert said. "For us, this is extremely hard. It's an emotional issue, but we have to step back from the emotion and make a decision we are comfortable with."

Vice Mayor Tom Card, who at last month's meeting said he was against a gun ban because it infringed on constitutional rights, indicated he would like to see two additional all-terrain vehicles be employed at the park to allow city employees to more fully patrol the area.

At last month's meeting, Mr. Sewell's motion to pass the ban failed for lack of a second. Mr. Steele, who votes but cannot second motions, asked the measure be placed back on the agenda this month. Mr. Sewell, the lone backer of the ban at last month's meeting, said he'd also like to see additional trimming of trees in the wooded area to add protection at the park.

Councilman Denny Manning was not at Thursday's meeting, but the remaining council members and the mayor voted in favor of the ban.

Virtually every council in the state has been hit with the question of whether or not to allow guns in parks after the state legislature this year said gun permit holders could carry their weapons in parks.

Cities and counties can opt out, but they must do so by Sept. 1, the statute reads.

So far in Hamilton County only Soddy-Daisy and Red Bank have decided to allow guns in parks.