Lenoir City leaders discuss allowing guns in city parks
Greg Wilkerson News herald


Those who feel safer with a firearm on the Town Creek Greenway or at Lenoir City Park may get to continue carrying a concealed weapon while others at the city's swimming pool and Lee Russell athletic fields may be required to leave their handguns at home.

At Monday's workshop Lenoir City Council members discussed whether to allow those with gun permits to carry in the city's parks, which includes the pool, greenway, athletic fields and other more traditional areas. On Sept. 1 a new state law takes effect allowing guns in parks, however local municipalities can choose to opt out.

Mayor Matt Brookshire explained the council has the right to selectively opt out by restricting guns in certain parks while continuing to allow them in others. "I'm certainly not opposed to limiting access at the pool site, but I'm not for limiting access at the greenway or the city park," said council member Tony Aikens. "Most people who have handgun-carrying permits are law-abiding citizens." Aikens, who is also chief deputy for the Loudon County Sheriff's Office, said he knows of women who carry guns while they walk alone on the trail and he would not support taking that right away.

Vice-Mayor Eddie Simpson echoed Aikens' remarks saying the parks are safer because the "crooks know we have the right to protect ourselves over there." He said he didn't want to create a situation where the criminals were the only ones with handguns.

The Lenoir City Recreation Advisory Board met last week and discussed the issue, and Parks and Recreation Director Steve Harrelson said they decided by a vote of 4 to 2 to opt out of the state law and make guns illegal in all city parks. He said issues could arise at sporting events where emotions are high.

To complicate the issue further, Harrelson said the Town Creek Greenway passes through Wampler-Keith Park, which hosts sporting events. Council members discussed finding an option to allow guns on the greenway, but not the rest of Wampler-Keith Park, which may not be a possibility.

The board could not vote during the workshop, but the item is set to be on the agenda at Monday's regular meeting. "Put me down for no firearms period," said council member Bobby Johnson. "I don't think we need them."