Lenoir City leaders
decided not to opt out of a state law allowing handguns to be
carried in city parks.
City Council members had debated the issue in recent meetings
and a final resolution was presented to the board Monday night,
which would have banned handguns at the Lee Russell athletic
fields and at the city's pool if passed. The resolution died
because of a lack of a second motion.
"I supported this
resolution whole-heartedly," Mayor Matt Brookshire said. "I did
not expect it to pass."
City Council Member Bobby Johnson had expressed a desire to have
guns banned at all city parks at previous meetings, but said he
was swayed to support the resolution based on phone calls he
received from citizens in the community. He made a motion to
approve the resolution but no other members of the council were
willing to share in his support, evidenced by complete silence
as the mayor called for a second.
Two citizens spoke on the issue during the meeting. Victor
Johnson and Tom Harvey, both of Lenoir City, asked the council
to continue allowing guns to be carried by permit holders. "If
you can ban guns in different areas, why not just put ban-gun
signs on all the banks and they won't get robbed," Harvey said.
Being in the survey business, he said there have been several
times he felt safer by having his gun while working.
The issue was addressed in August by the city's Parks and
Recreation Department Advisory Board, which presented an opinion
to the city council in favor of opting out of the state law by a
vote of 4-2. "We support whatever the council decides," said
Steve Harrelson, the department's director. "It became a hot
issue all over the state so we became compelled to address it."
Harrelson said there were many factors in the advisory board's
decision including a concern in regard to firearms being present
at organized sporting events.
Across the state about 70 cities and counties have opted out of
the state law and decided not to allow guns in parks. "It's an
absolute non-issue to me," said Zane Ardary who lives on a
houseboat at the marina in Lenoir City Park. Ardary said the law
has little impact either way because people will continue to
bring guns into parks even if a sign were to be put up saying it
is against the law. "We've never met an objectionable person in
this park," he said.
City leaders specifically mentioned the Town Creek Greenway as
an area where there may be a concern for safety, though they
stressed the walking trail is safe for use. "Just because we
make a law against carrying guns in parks, doesn't mean there
are no guns in parks," said Pamela Kaye, a county resident who
said she uses the greenway several times a week. "I do have a
legal permit to carry and I believe in our second amendment
rights. I'm upset that it can be taken away from us."
Kaye said she feels safe on the trail because of the friendly
people she meets there and the presence of officers on bicycles.
She said she has also taken self-defense classes and doesn't
carry her gun with her on the greenway. She also said she
doesn't use the trail after dusk. "My concern is our rights are
being whittled away from us," she said. "I feel safe in Lenoir
City. This is a good place to be."
Brookshire said he doesn't expect the issue to come up again
because there isn't support for a ban among the council members.