Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Chattanooga Assistant Chief of Police Glenn Scruggs speaks during a protest for Chattanooga area school Children on Saturday, June 6, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

NASHVILLE — Democratic state Senate candidate Glenn Scruggs, an assistant Chattanooga police chief, says it was irresponsible for incumbent Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire to vote in support of a 2015 law allowing Tennesseans with state-issued handgun permits to go armed in parks.

In a video on his Twitter feed, Scruggs refers to a rally last weekend in Chattanooga's Coolidge Park where, he said, "folks were walking around with rifles out and pistols exposed.

"Coolidge Park — the same park where I take my son Jalen to play. The same park where you take your families to play and enjoy themselves as well," Scruggs said. "The imagery of that, the thought of me playing football and playing around with Jalen and looking over my shoulder and seeing armed people walk down the sidewalks with rifles and pistols out, I know it upset my family because we talked about it. I know many of you were upset as well.

"Someone thought that was a great idea. And they passed it through the General Assembly and a bunch of senators up there voted for it," Scruggs said, noting then-Gov. Bill Haslam signed the measure into law.

"One of those senators who helped that become a law was our current senator, Todd Gardenhire. Todd voted to allow folks the ability to walk through public parks with rifles out. Who thought that was a great idea? It was irresponsible then, it is irresponsible now," Scruggs said.

In a Times Free Press interview on Saturday, Gardenhire, a Chattanooga resident, said, "I can't believe that an assistant chief of police would do anything to prevent law-abiding citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights. That's unconscionable. I mean, the law-abiding citizens aren't the problem. The criminals aren't going to show their guns."

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ Senator Todd Gardenhire answers a question during 2019 Hamilton County legislative delegation meeting with Times Free Press reporters and editors.

The senator said, "I don't personally carry guns in places like that, but that's my choice. If someone wants to and they're a law-abiding citizen and got a permit to do it, that's their constitutional right."

Scruggs told viewers if they agree with him, they can call or email legislators, support the Moms Demand Action organization "and you can support and vote for candidates who'll vote like you think and vote like you feel and not listen to special groups, listen to you.

"I know a guy like that," Scruggs added. "His name's Glenn, you got to vote for him. Your voices and your votes matter, use them to help me move Tennessee forward."

The so-called 2015 "guns in parks" law was strongly supported by the National Rifle Association. It overrode existing municipal and county bans on permit-holders bringing firearms into local parks, playgrounds and ballfields.

Gardenhire and Scruggs are facing off in the Nov. 3 Senate District 10 election. The district includes much of Chattanooga and a portion of nearby Bradley County.

Before the General Assembly's 2012 redrawing of Tennessee House and Senate district lines, the Senate seat was held by Democrat Andy Berke, who later successfully ran for mayor of Chattanooga and is finishing out his second term that ends next year.

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550. Contact on Twitter @AndySher1.