Hamilton County Commission shoots down guns-in-parks provision

Hamilton County Commission shoots down guns-in-parks provision

June 18th, 2009 by Matt Wilson in News

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell A sign prohibiting firearms is seen at the Tennessee Riverpark. The Hamilton County commission voted to ban firearms in Hamilton County parks on Wednesday.

The Hamilton County Commission on Wednesday became the third local governmental body to ban guns in county and city parks, and several officials from area cities said they're considering doing the same.

"Basically what (the vote) does is puts us back where we were a month ago," county Mayor Claude Ramsey said.

Chattanooga and Red Bank's city councils voted Tuesday night to ban guns in their parks, as well.

Under a new state law that Gov. Bredesen signed Friday, permit holders can bring their guns into state parks. It also opens up local parks to allow guns unless local officials vote to ban them.

Upon signing the bill, Gov. Bredesen encouraged local governments to take action to prohibit guns in their parks.

Commissioner Warren Mackey called the law "horrible legislation" after the commission's 9-0 vote.

"They should have given us that authority to begin with," Dr. Mackey said.

Commissioner Greg Beck said Wednesday's vote represented "sound thinking."

"We're living in a time when people can't think right," he said. "Unfortunately, sometimes it's people in leadership and people who make laws."

State Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who has said he supports an opt-in version of the bill rather than the opt-out version that passed, said he had no problem with local officials opting out.

"That's their prerogative," he said.

State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said he also had no issue with the local government votes. He said he supports the opt-out provision so that local officials could do just that if they saw fit.

East Ridge Mayor Mike Steele said officials there have asked the city attorney and city manager to draft a resolution to opt out of the law.

State Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, who voted for the bill, said he has discussed that resolution with East Ridge officials and it gives him "no heartburn at all."

Dayton, Tenn., Mayor Bob Vincent called the guns-in-parks legislation a "bad bill." He said Dayton's City Council would discuss the law at its next meeting July 6.

Bob Privett, vice mayor of Soddy-Daisy, said the Soddy-Daisy City Council has had no discussions about the law. But he said his personal feelings were that criminals would commit fewer crimes if they knew others had guns.

Collegedale Mayor John Turner and Cleveland, Tenn., Mayor Tom Rowland also have said they do not know how their cities will respond to the law.