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Bill Haslam

NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam says he's still no fan of a fast-moving effort by fellow Republicans in the Legislature to strip local governments of their ability to ban guns from local parks.

The governor, a former Knoxville mayor, said last week the issue boils down to property rights and the Second Amendment.

"City councils and county commissions have said, 'OK, our taxpayers have paid for that park,' and their elected representatives, I think, should get to decide what happens in the parks," the governor said.

"It's not a Second Amendment right," he said. "It's the same right anybody should have with a property they control."

The governor has said he has "major concerns" with the bill, but he stopped short of threatening a veto.

"We'll have to see once it winds its way to me," he noted.

Last week, House Civil Justice Subcommittee members advanced the bill, which would apply to people with state-issued handgun carry permits. Last month, the Senate approved the bill on a 26-7 vote.

Members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America packed the meeting, with member Telisha Cobb speaking out against the measure, sponsored by Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown.

Cobb, a Nashville resident who has a 6-year-old boy, said the bill "would force guns into all Tennessee parks against the wishes of the cities those parks are in and against the wishes of the moms who take their children there to play. It would expose our children to serious danger."

Goins countered that "the only thing it does it to allow those licensed permit holders to protect themselves in public areas."

Permit holders undergo background checks and are required to take a gun safety course, he noted.

House Speaker Beth Harwell has said she sees the bill passing but hopes to make it more "palatable" to local governments.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and a number of other city mayors opposed the legislation as an unwanted intrusion on local governments.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550.