Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association, Sept. 30, 2015:
In 2008, the Legislature enacted legislation that allows handgun permit holders to be armed in all state and federal properties. At that time, in response to pressure from local governments, it allowed local governments to exercise discretion over whether handgun permit holders would be disarmed by law in local parks.
Since 2008, there have been no significant problems with permit holders being able to carry in federal parks, state parks, or those local parks with respect to which local governments did not elect to close the parks. At the same time, the inconsistency in the status of local parks across the state with respect to handgun permit holders has led to confusion and potentially violations of the rights of these individuals under the Tennessee constitution.
Sadly, there are some in the legislature and in local governments who oppose allowing handgun permit holders to provide for their own self-defense while enjoying properties purchased and maintained with tax dollars. These individuals do not appear to be influenced by the existence of constitutional rights or even more fundamentally the God given right of self-defense. To the contrary, some of these elected or appointed public officials want to treat citizens not as intended in a constitutional republic but as mere modern serfs who labor and exist merely at the pleasure of the governing class.
Senator Lee Harris, who opposed the law, asserts that law enforcement has a “responsibility to keep us safe…” However, the United States Supreme Court says otherwise. In a number of different context, the Court has repeatedly rule that neither the police nor for that matter any other government agency have a duty to protect citizens. See, for example, Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658. Certainly a state senator should be expected to understand basic legal doctrines, such as this, and apply them in the context of establishing the public policy of the state.
Another fact that Sen. Harris potentially misconstrues relates to accidental injuries from the use of handguns. A number of studies have concluded that law enforcement accidentally kill and injury many more citizens than do lawful handgun permit holders acting in self-defense. If these reports are accurate, it may actually be safer for the public to allow handgun permit holders into the parks armed but to disarm the law enforcement members, which is something that the Tennessee Firearms Association would not recommend.
Sen. Harris is right that this matter needs clarification in the legislature in 2016. The only acceptable solution may be to eliminate the state statute entirely an remove all publicly funded properties from the list of “gun free zones” when it comes to handgun permit holders.