As of July 1, 9,776 individuals in Hamilton County and 237,753 individuals statewide had valid handgun carry permits, according to records from the Tennessee Department of Safety.
Number of Tennesseans with valid handgun permits:
* July 2009 - 237,753
* January 2009 - 218,004
* July 2008 - 196, 472
* January 2008 - 191,208
* September 2007 - 186,094
* January 2007 - 172,828
Source: Tennessee Department of Safety
Signal Mountain officials say they're ready to ban guns in town parks, but Red Bank city leaders aren't so sure.
Dr. Paul Hendricks, a Signal Mountain councilman, said he thought the council would vote in favor of banning guns in parks.
"I think that will pass strongly, if not unanimously," he said Thursday.
But Red Bank City Commissioner Floy Pierce said she's not quite as convinced.
"It's going to be a real difficult vote for me. It pulls you because you understand both sides," she said, adding that she's still trying to decide what's best for her community.
The Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill this spring allowing individuals with handgun permits to carry guns in state and local parks, but included a provision allowing local governments to opt out if they choose. But there's a Sept. 1 deadline for making the decision.
On Thursday, Murfreesboro and Clarksville voted to ban guns in parks.
Mr. Hendricks said he hadn't heard much discussion from local leaders or Signal Mountain residents on the issue and didn't expect a very heated debate when the council brings up the issue.
"Although you never know," Mr. Hendricks said. "The (National Rifle Association) may be out, beating the bushes and getting people there for all I know."
Signal Mountain Councilman Bill Lusk said the local police do an "extraordinary" job keeping the community safe, reducing the need for citizens to carry their own weapons.
"It just does not seem like something that is at all necessary and, in fact I would say it is ill-advised."
In Red Bank, the City Commission voted Tuesday to table the vote until July 21.
"I would like to hear from some more citizens in Red Bank on how they feel about it," Red Bank Commissioner Greg Jones said. "Plus, I wanted an opportunity personally to do a little more research before I was prepared to vote."
Mr. Jones said he wasn't entirely comfortable opting out of the bill, but still hasn't made a final decision.
"I think it's a serious matter when you start limiting out rights," Mr. Jones said. "We've got to be careful because it's going to affect a lot of people."
Rachel Parsons, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, called the original state bill "good, common-sense legislation" that should be kept at the state level. She said local municipalities were creating too many inconsistencies in gun laws.
"By opting out and creating a law that is different from state law, it's creating a patchwork of gun laws that's making it impossible for law-abiding people to comply," she said.
Although Chattanooga already prohibits guns in parks, under the new law the City Council still must vote to opt out of the state plan. The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would bar handgun permit holders from bringing firearms into parks.
The Hamilton County Commission voted 9-0 on June 17 to not allow handguns into county parks.