Editorial: Laws limiting concealed carry only limit those who obey

Feb. 13, 2014 @ 11:36 PM

A state debate on the rights of permitted Tennesseans to carry guns in city and municipal parks turned up a notch Thursday.

The Tennessee Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to repeal local control of gun possession in local parks by a 26-7 vote.

The lone Republican to vote against the bill was locally elected Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville). 

“I support Second Amendment rights, but I think we can also draw a distinction here,” Overbey told the Knoxville News-Sentinel last month. “(And not be) telling local governments what to do.”

As it currently stands in Tennessee, local governments may prohibit licensed permit holders from carrying their guns in a “public park, natural area, historic park, nature trail, campground, forest, greenway, waterway or other similar public place.”

The current status came by way of an exception to a law in 2009 which allowed the permitted carry of guns in parks and public places across the state. Cities were allowed to exempt themselves at that time.

Many cities, like Gov. Bill Haslam’s own Knoxville, opted out.

Sevierville did not exempt itself from the law.

Many Second Amendment supporters have seen the exemption as a direct contradiction to the Bill of Rights — specifically giving governments permission to deny citizens the right to bear arms.

Some, such as 7th District Senator Stacey Campfield — who sponsored the Senate bill — argue that it’s often places like city parks where citizens need the most protection.

After all, several assaults and rapes occurred in East Tennessee parks and green spaces over the past 12 months.

Campfield has also argued that the current law violates a provision of the state constitution that states “the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.”

He says the General Assembly delegating that power to local jurisdictions would be unconstitutional.

For the repeal to happen, a House bill must still be approved.

On first glance, someone might think it’s only logical to keep guns out of parks. But by banning firearms in these public places we’re only limiting the freedom of those who obey laws. Criminals — that is to say, those who’d be using guns illegally in the park — won’t obey regardless. Why force trained, law-abiding citizens to be unprotected?