A measure that would strip local governments of the authority to decide whether handgun carry permit holders can bring their firearms into city parks passed the Senate by a wide margin Thursday, but its future in the House is unclear.
The controversial bill would repeal a portion of a 2009 state law that put that power in the hands of city and county officials. Senate sponsor Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) defended the new legislation as necessary to help unify policies that govern where guns are allowed. The current opt-out system, he said, created a patchwork of laws that could be confusing to gun owners.
But city and county leaders across the state said they oppose the measure because it represents the loss of local authority to make the decisions, a power they don't want concentrated in Nashville. The mayors of Tennessee's four largest cities - Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga - all oppose the measure. So does Governor Bill Haslam. Haslam was Knoxville's mayor when the original 2009 law was passed.
Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell told reporters on Thursday that the House may make some changes to the bill's language, to make it "more palatable" to local leaders. Harwell said local governments should have some say in the implementation of gun regulations, but she didn't specify what kind of changes the House may consider.