Shelby County and Germantown Ban Legal Carry in Parks.
Shelby County votes to keep gun ban in parks
G'town also opts out of state law; Bartlett delays discussion
By Daniel Connolly (Contact) and Lela Garlington (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
A proposal to keep an existing ban on guns in county-owned parks passed, 10-3, at the Shelby County Commission on Monday despite objections from citizens who said it would attract criminals to the gun-free zones.
In the suburbs, Germantown voted unanimously for a ban and Bartlett delayed a discussion set for tonight after the county attorney questioned the new state law on guns in parks.
The Germantown Board of Mayor and Alderman voted 5-0 to ban guns from their 27 parks, natural areas and greenways. Germantown is the first suburban city to opt out of the state law. The aldermen also voted 3-2 to ban guns in city-owned buildings.
Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald said he would delay a Board of Mayor and Aldermen resolution after County Atty. Brian Kuhn said he believed new state laws permitting handgun permit holders to bring guns into parks, restaurants and other establishments violated the state Constitution because they wouldn't apply to everyone.
McDonald said there are too many unanswered legal questions to proceed.
County Mayor A C Wharton sought the legal opinion because the new laws contain the "opt out" provisions that would limit their applicability statewide. For instance, the county can declare that its parks can keep existing bans.
"Something just doesn't look right with this law," Wharton said at the commission meeting Monday.
The panel passed an amendment introduced by Commissioner Mike Ritz that says the county acknowledges the county attorney's opinion and doesn't waive its own right to challenge the legislation.
Meanwhile, representatives from groups including the Tennessee Firearms Association said gun rights shouldn't be limited. An attorney for the group, Hal Rounds, said he would sue the county if a person was unable to defend himself or herself in a park because of the county gun ban.
He cited the hypothetical example of a mother unable to stop a dog that was mauling her toddler because of the gun ban: "I'm looking forward to some grisly thing like that happening so we can (file the suit and protect others)."
That formulation seemed to offend some commissioners, including Mike Carpenter, who said he hoped that Rounds had misspoken.
He said Rounds seemed to be "looking forward to someone in our parks being savaged so he can sue us. I think it's despicable."
The policy would apply to county-owned properties such as Shelby Farms.
Voting yes to keep the current ban were commissioners Henri E. Brooks, Carpenter, Sidney Chism, Joe Ford, J.W. Gibson II, James Harvey, Matt Kuhn, Deidre Malone, Steve Mulroy and Ritz.
Voting no were commissioners Joyce Avery, Wyatt Bunker and George Flinn.
Voices on both sides of the debate were heard at the Germantown meeting as well.
"The intent of our state legislators and their unprecedented paranoia puzzles me," Adrienne Pakis-Gillon said. "We are dismayed that outside influences have hijacked Germantown's efforts to establish a peaceful, family oriented community."
After the vote, Dr. Alan Eisenberg said: "In Florida, you are more likely to get attacked by an alligator than a handgun permit holder. It just doesn't occur."