Editorial: Second Amendment vs. property rights makes for great debate

Jan. 30, 2014 @ 11:51 PM

An interesting situation is brewing in the state legislature as two fundamental conservative principles are headed for a showdown on the Senate floor next week.

It’s Second Amendment rights vs. property rights.

While it’s not the first time it’s happened in Tennessee — similar discussions and votes have taken place in recent years — this one is somewhat unique.

A Stacy Campfield-backed proposal that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee seeks to end local governments’ powers to disallow firearms in municipal parks.

In 2009 the Tennessee Legislature gave city and county governments the ability to opt out of a new statute that allowed guns in public parks, playgrounds and at sports fields.

Now Campfield and some others seek to reverse that stance, which is at odds with Gov. Bill Haslam, who has “major concerns” with the proposal.

When Haslam was mayor of Knoxville just a few short years ago, he agreed with his city council’s decision to “opt-out” of the new law, effectively disallowig guns to be carried in parks there.

Haslam has argued that the property owners — the cities and counties — should have priority in making decisions on whether guns should or should’t be allowed. The others cite the Second Amendment and assert the only people legally carrying firearms in those parks would be state-licensed permit holders.

It seems logical to accept that a property owner’s rights would trump a person’s right to carry a firearm on private property. But this bill isn’t about private property. It’s about public property controlled by local governments. 

It’s an interesting debate and one that could cause at least a minor rift in the GOP’s super majority. The vote before the full Senate is slated for Tuesday.