Press Release from the Tennessee Firearms Association, March 13, 2014:
As bill moves through House, language contained in Senate version could create a ‘felony trap’ for law-abiding gun owners
Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Firearms Association warns about the possibility of a ‘felony trap’ hidden in the Guns-In-Parks legislation. Yesterday the Guns-In-Parks bill (HB1407) passed the Civil Justice Committee while failing to clarify the issues of school usage of parks that is contained in the Senate version (SB1496). The TFA is pushing legislators to modify the House bill to prevent the dangerous trap from becoming part of the law.
“This legislation has a very dangerous and perhaps unintended trap that should be understood and removed” said John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association. “An individual with a handgun permit could legally be using a walking trail in a local public park with a handgun for personal safety and without any notice at all be charged with a CLASS E FELONY merely because a school group is using the park at the same time.”
The Senate version of the bill contains an exemption which makes the “guns in parks” legislation subject to existing Tennessee law that prohibits guns on school grounds (TCA §39-17-1309). The language in the school grounds statute that is referenced in the Senate legislation provides that “any other property … used” by a school is considered “school grounds” for purposes of §39-17-1309 and possession of firearms on those properties used by a school is a class E felony.
The TFA has suggested an amendment to the House bill by simply adding “This section shall take precedence over §39-17-1309.”
“This felony trap contained in the Senate bill can send you to jail and even cost you your job” John Harris who is also a practicing attorney continued. “If you’re a law abiding citizen with a carry permit who is walking in a park, if a school or school group is using another part of the park at the same time, under the Senate version of the bill, you can suddenly and without notice be in criminal violation and subject to immediate arrest and charged with a felony under the school grounds statute. This needs to be corrected prior to final passage of the House version”.
Although the House version of the bill is presently silent on this issue, that silence may allow the school grounds “trap” to apply unless the House version is amended to preclude that from happening. Even if the House bill is amended, the Senate would now have to also accept that amendment.
The Tennessee Firearms Association was founded in 1995 and formed to defend the right to keep and bear arms and to educate the citizenry on the responsible use, ownership and carrying of firearms. The TFA is Tennessee’s only no-compromise gun group.