TN Democrats file bill to ban guns at certain events

Staff photo by John Rawlston2015 Attendees watch behind the reserved seating area as Doug E. Fresh performs the early show on the Coca Cola Stage at the Riverbend Festival on Wednesday, June 10, 2015.

NASHVILLE -- Two Democratic lawmakers today filed a bill that changes Tennessee's latest "guns in parks" law to allow officials bar firearms at ticketed events in locally owned parks and major sports venues.

State Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, charged in a news release that "allowing guns in areas with large crowds where alcohol is consumed is a recipe for disaster, and creates a grave danger for law enforcement officers, who might not be able to distinguish friendlies with a gun from criminals."

Harris also said concert promoters "made clear that they want the ability to ban weapons at their events, and rely exclusively on law enforcement and security to keep attendees safe."

His Senate Bill 1432 seeks to add a new exemption to the guns-in-parks law providing that handgun-carry permit holders won't be able to go armed allowed at public parks that require a ticket. The exemption would end at the conclusion of such an event.

It also specifies that the new law does not apply to stadiums and complexes used by a professional sports team to play, practice or train.

The Republican-controlled Legislature this year approved changes in law that stripped cities and counties from barring permit holders to carry their weapons in local parks, ballfields and sports venues and greenways.

Critics charge it would impact events not only there but at large gatherings like Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival.

"The legislation is the result of feedback Sen. Harris and I received from law enforcement, business owners and families across Tennessee," Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, said. "Everyone agrees that the law, as written, poses a serious threat to our families' safety and our local economy."

Clemmons said he and Harris are "proposing a common sense solution with the support of those on both sides of the gun debate to try and keep public events in Tennessee safe."