The debate over who should have the power to regulate or ban the wearing of firearms — the state government or local jurisdictions — is not “solely” a gun-rights issue, but also a “property rights” issue, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam asserted during a press conference Feb. 18.
If local governments paid for and manage parks, “they should have the right to determine what happens there,” said the governor. Haslam made his comments following a Boy Scouts of America fundraiser he was attending in Murfreesboro.
On a 26-7 vote, a bill passed the Tennessee Senate on Feb. 13 that proposes to exempt licensed gun-carry permit holders from having to abide by firearms bans in local parks and recreation areas. The legislation awaits discussion in the House. The Senate sponsor, Knoxville Republican Stacy Campfield, argues that the Tennessee Constitution grants the state government power to regulate the wearing of firearms, and does not permit the Legislature to delegate that authority to local jurisdictions.
In 2009 the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law allowing people with permits to carry guns in state parks, but left the regulation of firearms in city and county parks to the local governing bodies.
“Having been a mayor, and having presided over a city council when the issue came up the first time, the Legislature clearly gave the locals the ability to opt out and it felt important to me to keep that,” said Haslam, who served as mayor for the City of Knoxville from 2003 to 2011.