Reaction to 'guns in parks' bill mixed - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reaction to 'guns in parks' bill mixed

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - People with handgun carry permits could bring their weapons into all state and local parks in Tennessee, under a bill the Senate passed on Monday.

The chamber also approved a bill to allow people with carry permits to transport ammunition alongside rifles or shotguns in the passenger compartment of their vehicles.

The parks measure sponsored by Republican Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet passed on a 24-8 vote.

"The point of this bill is to give law-abiding and responsible permit holders a fighting chance when confronted by a rapist or a murderer while within a local or state park," Beavers said.

Under a previous version passed by the House, local governments would have to vote specifically to allow handguns to be carried in parks.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis disagreed with imposing the handgun carry law on local governments.

"It would seem to me that we as state legislators should concern ourselves with matters of state property and that local governments should handle local matters," he said.

Democratic Sen. Doug Jackson of Dickson said his proposal on guns in cars is necessary to clarify a current law that considers guns to be loaded when ammunition is nearby.

That argument resonated with Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis.

"It's difficult for me to understand how any of our sportsmen would be able to go hunting if they couldn't carry their ammunition and their gun in the car," she said.

Jackson's bill would still ban ammunition from being placed in the chamber of a rifle or shotgun, other than in cases of "justifiable self-defense."

Since both bills differ from the versions earlier passed earlier by the House, the two chambers would have to iron out differences before they could head for the governor's consideration.

Tuesday in Memphis, reaction to the potential laws were mixed.  Every day, Cate Majors shows up at Overton Park in an attempt to wear out her dog Sampson.

Majors doesn't think the 'guns in parks' change would make much of a difference.

"I don't think that any law put into legislation is going to keep anybody from doing what they are already doing illegally," she said. "So I'm pretty sure the guy next to me might have a gun either way."

Opponents to allowing guns in parks point to July 4, 2008, when a man showed up at an Overton Park picnic, shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, and shot then himself.

They also point to licensed gun owners Thomas Pate, accused of shooting and killing his wife, and Harry Coleman, accused of shooting and killing a stranger in a parking lot argument.

But gun advocates, like Range USA instructor Kristen Bauer, say those cases are anomalies.

"Whether they be walking their dog, hiking, biking, riding horses whatever...they'll be able to protect themselves should somebody come along and try to cause them death or serious bodily injury," Bauer said.

Regardless of the law, Majors said she doesn't have a dog in the fight, and it will stay that way.

"I wouldn't consider carrying a gun either way," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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