A Tennessee law allowing guns in parks is now on the books.
Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed a bill Friday that allows gun owners with permits to bring guns to state and local parks, but not without some reservations. According to The Tennessean, Haslam sent a letter to legislators expressing the safety concerns of allowing guns in parks.
"I am concerned that an unintended consequence may be operational challenges for local leaders in managing their parks in a safe, effective and consistent manner, due to events and situations that could not have been anticipated in drafting this law," Haslam wrote in the letter.
Opponents of the bill have repeatedly warned about the dangers of allowing guns near children and potential gun accidents that could ensue. One prominent opponent is Nashville's mayor, Karl Dean (D), who said Friday that he wants to work with local leaders to determine the proper enforcement of the bill.
The new law invalidates a 2009 law that gave local officials the authority to ban guns in parks. Advocates of the law say that allowing guns will improve safety in parks.
The bill sparked heated debate in the state legislature, with lawmakers introducing various amendments, including one provision that would have permitted guns on the grounds of the state Capitol. The bill passed with that amendment in the state Senate, but not in the House.
Lawmakers were finally able to pass a bill through both chambers and gain the governor's approval by compromising on language that delineates rules for school events held in parks. The final bill includes language stating that someone with a handgun permit may not be within the "immediate vicinity" of a school-sponsored park event, though it does not provide a clear definition of "immediate vicinity."
Some in the state legislature had hoped to pass the bill and get the governor's signature earlier this month, right before Nashville hosted the National Rifle Association's annual convention. Lawmakers argued that the law would have made it easier for convention attendees "to see the whole city."