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VOL. 38 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 14, 2014

Guns-in-parks: A local or state issue?

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A measure to do away with local government's power to decide whether to allow firearms in public parks overwhelmingly passed the Senate on Thursday despite concerns expressed by the governor.

The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville was approved 26-7. Six Democrats and one Republican voted against the legislation in the GOP-dominated chamber.

The Legislature in 2009 gave city and county governments the ability to opt out of a new law that allowed firearms in public parks, playgrounds and sports fields. Under Campfield's proposal, permit holders would be allowed to carry, unless there's a school function.

Supporters of the measure have said the state shouldn't defer to local governments on important issues such as gun rights.

"What this goes back to is the state constitution," Campfield said. "It says the state shall regulate the bearing of arms. It doesn't give us the authority to delegate to ... municipalities."

Opponents disagree.

"I think the state ... should allow local communities to make this decision themselves through their local elected officials," said Sen. Doug Overbey, a Maryville Republican and the only Republican to vote against the proposal. "I think that's where the decision ought to be made."

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he has "major concerns" about the bill, and his spokesman reiterated that sentiment on Thursday.

House lawmakers have also expressed some concern about the Senate version. The companion bill was withdrawn from a House subcommittee last week, but House Speaker Beth Harwell said Thursday that the proposal is still alive and that House members are reviewing it to "try to work out a balance."

"We believe in Second Amendment rights," said the Nashville Republican. "We also want to be very sensitive to the fact that local governments have their place to play as well. These are local park s financed by our local governments, controlled by our local governments, and so I think they should have some say."

If the House proposal does start moving again and the Legislature approves a version similar to the Senate, there's a chance the governor could veto the measure.

If that happened, Campfield believes he has the votes to override it.

"I don't care, I'll run it again," he said. "I've got more than enough numbers to override a veto."

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