City bans guns in parks

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lewisburg's City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to negate a new state law that allows people to carry guns in public parks.

"The Legislature passed a law to allow guns in strange places, to my way of thinking," Mayor Barbara Woods said, opening Council discussion on the resolution.

Councilman Ron McRady, a retired state employee who held several administrative jobs with the Department of Corrections, opposed the measure endorsed by Police Chief Chuck Forbis and former Chief Wayne Coomes who's on the Police Advisory Board.

"I have a problem ... when you limit the rights of a few," McRady said. "I've been in the prison business and the state business for 32 years and I know what I'm talking about," the former deputy warden said.

"What happens if you're on the greenway and you run up on someone attacking a woman," he asked. "Where are you then?"

Councilman Robin Minor reported the city Recreation Board endorses use of the option made available by state lawmakers to allow local governments to repeal the law allowing people with gun carry permits to go armed in parks.

"I'm not anti-gun," Minor said, adding that he understands the argument for gun permit holders who would want to be armed in a park.

Coomes, the former police chief also understands the argument, but explained his position: "When you're in an urban environment like we are in Lewisburg and Marshall County... I don't anticipate any problems, but in national parks where my son and grandson camp, people need protection against animals and criminals. You'd be surprised how many women are raped and families killed in parks."

The Police Advisory Board, including Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr., unanimously endorsed use of a provision in the state law that allows local governments to "opt out" of the measure that's being reversed by a number of local governments across the state.

"Ordinarily, I'd vote against it," said Coomes who voted for the measure when it was brought to the Police Advisory Board by Forbis. But various factors surrounding the Goats Music and More Festival and the nature of the walking trail led Coomes to conclude a ban on guns in those areas is worthwhile.

"I generally agree with McRady," the former chief said.

McRady opposed limiting the rights of "law-abiding citizens" who are state trained and licensed to carry a gun. Criminals are the problem, he said.

Some people who've participated in the city's annual Goats, Music and More Festival in October have said they won't come this year if the state law isn't nullified in Lewisburg, according to Councilwoman Quinn Brandon.

Murfreesboro's City Council voted on Thursday to use the state option to preserve a pre-existing ban on guns in city parks. That came after the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association warned that it might not hold the boys and girls basketball tournaments there if the city doesn't opt-out of the state law permitting guns in parks.

Lewisburg Police have been told by visitors at the Goat Fest that they've seen civilians with guns and that made them "uncomfortable," Forbis said.

Voting for the ban were Brandon, Whitehead, Minor, and Councilmen Hershel Davis.

Williamson County commissioners have also voted to ban guns in parks.