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VOL. 130 | NO. 48 | Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tennessee House Advances Guns-in-Parks Bill Opposed By Haslam

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A bill seeking to strip city and county governments of the power to ban guns at local parks, playgrounds and athletic fields is advancing in the Tennessee House.

The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Harrison of Rogersville was approved by the House Civil Justice Committee on Tuesday.

"We've had seven years of people with gun carry permits all across the state – in state parks, local parks, Little League games – and there's not been any problems," Harrison said. "So this would just make it consistent across the state."

Harrison said the bill would eliminate confusion among people with state-issued handgun carry permits about where they can legally be armed.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam opposed similar legislation in the past, and as Knoxville mayor supported a 2009 city council vote that kept in place a ban on handguns in some of the city's parks.

Haslam told reporters earlier this month that he's discussed the measure with the mayors of the state's four biggest cities, who he said made the argument that "we bought and paid for these parks and we should be able to decide what happens in them."

But the governor said he'd be willing to consider a compromise on the measure if one could be worked out.

The bill now heads to the Finance Committee because of an estimated $24,000 price tag to change signs at state parks. Last year's version of the bill died because its $38,000 cost was not covered in the annual state budget. The bill's prospects could be helped this year because Harrison is chairman of the budget subcommittee that will decide its fate.

The guns-in-parks bill is one of dozens of firearms bills introduced this year that include measures to do away with permit requirements, ban employers from disciplining workers who store guns in cars parked at work and making the semi-automatic .50 caliber Barrett rifle the state's official firearm.

The flood of gun legislation comes as the sustained boom in state handgun carry permits appears to be waning.

According to an annual report on carry permits by the state Department of Safety, about 46,000 new permits were granted last year. That's down 45 percent from the more than 83,000 new permits granted in 2013. Renewals were down from 100,000 in 2013 to 76,000 last year.

Meanwhile, about 1,500 permits were revoked or suspended in 2014, down from nearly 1,900 a year earlier.

About 498,000 Tennesseans have permits to carry handguns in public. Applicants must be at least 21 years old, complete a firearms safety course and pass a background check.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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