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."