Governor Haslam has reluctantly signed HB0995, which reduces the number of gun free zones in the state. Previous legislation had allowed local governments to ban guns from locally administered parks, if they posted prominent signs saying that guns were banned. HB 0995 removed that exception in the law, thereby allowing a limited ability to exercise second amendment rights on the public lands of locally administered parks.
The history of the bill is rather interesting, in that Governor Haslam was against the bill before he was for it. He likely only signed the bill to avoid the embarrassment of a veto override. The bill was strongly supported in both the House and the Senate, with votes of 65 to 21 and 26 to 7, respectively. Those numbers are far more than enough to override a veto.
The bill is an incremental victory for second amendment supporters, but The Tennessee Firearms Association notes that there are several areas of concern about the new law. One of the major areas of concern is a modified version of the "roaming school zone" law that was finally fixed in Indiana. Under that law, a person who was legally carrying a firearm could have become an instant felon if a school had started to use an area where she was at, for school purposes. In Tennessee, it only applies to parks, but still is a ridiculous addition to the law. People who legally carry guns enhance school safety, they do not detract from it. From getresponse.com (Tennessee Firearms Association):
Instead, the 2015 "parks" law generally removes local control over local parks. However, it preserved and perhaps worsened the school grounds "used" issue so that any park that is used by a school automatically morphs into a prohibited property. That school grounds morphing can result in a Class E felony conviction if a permit holder is in the park and knew or should have known that a school was using "the property."The TFA interpretation tracks what I have read in the bill(pdf). In addition, the bill requires that the signs stating that the parks are gun free zones stay up(pdf)!
SECTION 4. No department of state government shall change, remove, or replace signs as a result of Sections 1 or 2 of this act prior to the time the signs are regularly scheduled to be changed, replaced, or removed or are required to be changed, replaced, or removed by any other law or due to destruction or theft; provided, that the general assembly may specifically provide funds for the purpose of removing or replacing signs in a general appropriations act.So, the gun free zones in parks are done away with, but the signs saying that they are gun free zones stay in place. In addition, if a school softball game is going on in the park that your are walking through, you are subject to arrest on a felony if the prosecutor decides that you "should have known" that it was a school event in process. The same could well apply if a group of high school students was on a field trip and approached you!
The law contains dangerous traps for peaceable people exercising their second amendment rights. A much better bill might have be passed if the legislature did not have to worry about a veto by Governor Haslam. It is interesting to note that Governor Haslam promised to sign a constitutional carry bill four years ago, as shown in this video.
He was clear that he would sign it if passed, but did not say that he would support passage.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch