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Existing Town gun ban in parks remains

Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen upheld a current ban on guns in parks by a 4-1 vote, with Alderman Bob Markli voting against.

“I realize this is a very emotional issue, but I think we need to be careful not to have an emotional response to a problem that doesn’t really exist,” Markli said.

Markli said the “hysterical predictions of Wild West shootouts” were inaccurate, and predicted armed citizens in parks would be a deterrent to crimes in parks.

“If we opt out, what we are basically saying is that the only people who will have firearms in our parks [would have] illegal weapons,” he added.

A 1985 Farragut ordinance banning firearms and fireworks in parks supersedes the state’s decision to allow guns in parks, so the Board did not need to vote to “opt out.”

However, Markli made a motion to “opt in” to the state’s decision, a move that died for lack of a second.

Mayor Ralph McGill said the decision was not about the right to own or bear arms, but about what was reasonable in use.

“The other complication is that even if we opted in, which says people who carry guns can carry them in parks, they still are not allowed to do so anytime a school function is taking place in the park,” McGill said.

“We have one trail that goes through school property [behind Farragut Primary School], and we have school activities in our parks frequently.

“It becomes a fairly unmanageable task to sort all that out and say when, and when you can’t, bring a gun into a park,” he added.

Markli said that burden would fall on handgun carry permit holders, who would be responsible for knowing when and when not to carry a gun.

“The burden is on them like the burden is on the drivers license holder to obey the law,” Markli said.

Alderman Jeff Elliott said he opposed guns in parks because of the possibility of accidents or “flashpoint anger” incidents around children.

“I’ve been coaching now for 16 years … I’ve seen countless numbers of incidents over the years of flashpoint anger … where people, an hour later, wish they’d never said or done certain things,” he said.

“I’ve seen people go to other people with bats, seen people beat up folks and threaten folks and all kinds of stuff.

“We need to do everything possible … to make this a safe environment,” he added.

Although the Town has not allowed guns in parks since 1985, Farragut may now have to post that in all its parks, to comply with the new state law.

Town Attorney Tom Hale said he would explore that option.

“The safe thing to do would be to post,” he said.


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