TN House passes guns in parks bill - WSMV Channel 4

TN House passes guns in parks bill

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A proposal that would allow guns in local and state parks came one step closer to becoming law on Monday.

There are several parks where permit holders can already bring guns, but lawmakers want to make the policy consistent throughout the state.

Speaker Beth Harwell said she's against the bill, especially in urban places like Nashville. But she chose not to vote at all Monday. The bill passed 65-21.

"If I have a Republican in the well, I don't like to vote against a fellow Republican," Harwell said. "But there are a lot of other members that did the same thing as me."

If it passes, the measure would go into effect next week in time for the NRA convention in Music City.

Rep. Mike Harrison, R-Rogersville, sponsored the bill. In an earlier interview with Channel 4, he acknowledged the NRA as part of the reason behind the proposal. 

"You've got 80,000 people coming to the city of Nashville from all over the country, and obviously some of those people will want to go out and enjoy the wonderful parks here," Harrison said on March 10.

But on Monday, Harrison said he mostly felt pressure from female voters.

"After talking to especially some females in my district, they feel safer, especially going to some natural trails in parks if they have a weapon," Harrison said. "And that was the overriding factor for me."

Safety speaks not only to the bill's supporters, but its critics as well.

"They obviously haven't been to a Little League baseball game when the ump calls against their child," said Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville. "These people go crazy."

Democrats proposed several amendments to derail the bill. None survived.

"I've been here 20, 21 years and I've never seen such a large bill being debated and no questions asked," said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

Many Democrats said they expect the bill to pass the Senate vote on Wednesday.

Gov. Bill Haslam has openly said he's against the bill. Harwell said she doubts he will veto it because of overwhelming Republican support.

The measure could affect areas like Centennial Park, which falls under the jurisdiction of Metro Parks.

Terrance Darden was spending time at the park with several friends on Monday night. Darden said in his opinion, the benefits outweigh the costs.

"You never know what you'll be approached about in a public area," Darden said. "This is America. People have rights and people have rights to guns." 

The Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action released a statement after the House vote on Monday.

"No parent should ever have to wonder whether someone standing next to the swing set is carrying a loaded weapon," wrote Kathleen Chandler Wright in the statement. "By completely removing local authority to set public safety policies, House Bill 995 would cause problems for schools that hold after-school activities or sporting events in public parks." 

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