Good news in Blount county
Guns will remain legal in Blount County parks
Commission won't opt out of state law
By Joel Davis
of The Daily Times Staff
Originally published: September 09. 2009 3:01AM
Last modified: September 08. 2009 11:04PM
People with handgun permits will be able to continue carrying their weapons in county parks after the Blount County Commission nixed consideration of a resolution to opt out of a state law that took effect on Sept. 1.
During the Agenda Committee meeting on Tuesday, a motion to consider the resolution at the full County Commission meeting on Sept. 17 failed 7-11.
Commissioners David Graham, Steve Hargis, Peggy Lambert, Mike Lewis, Joe McCulley, Bob Proffitt and Wendy Pitts Reeves voted yes.
Commissioners David Ballard, Tonya Burchfield, Gary Farmer, Brad Harrison, Mark Hasty, John Keeble, Gerald Kirby, Holden Lail, Kenneth Melton, Monika Murrell and Mike Walker voted no.
Commissioners Ron French, Scott Helton and Steve Samples were absent.
The commission had been set to consider the resolution in August, but the vote was postponed because of conflicting legal advice.
Proffitt said he opposed allowing handguns in the park.
"The issue of whether to allow guns in parks there is certainly room for people to disagree, but my feelings are parks are certainly no place to carry a gun," he said. "... I have talked to many constituents and at least 3-1 have been in favor of not having guns in parks."
Lewis, the sponsor, said his choice would be to move the resolution on to the full agenda for a vote.
"If we don't get an option to do that, we'll never know," Lewis said. "If we do get an option then we're public about it, we'll say what we feel and believe, we'll vote on it and that will be it."
5,156 gun permits
Commissioner Mark Hasty said there are 5,156 handgun permit owners in Blount County.
"These are people who have gone through extensive training, hours of class work ..., paid money, had extensive background checks with local sheriff's department, the TBI and the FBI," he said.
Other commissioners expressed opposition to the idea of a ban.
"I am one of the 5,156, and I don't want my rights taken away," Burchfield said.
"Ninety-nine percent of the people who called me have been for the guns," Harrison said.
Community member David Borum asked the commissioners not to place the resolution on the agenda.
"It really is misleading," Borum said. "It only allows people with permits to carry in parks, which, hopefully, it should apply to any public land, I think. There is a big misconception."
Borum said that handgun permit holders were worthy of trust.
"Permit holders are very responsible -- although we aren't perfect -- but, even not being perfect, we have a better record than even police officers do," he said. "... I'm asking you to do the right thing and let the state law apply."
While the legislature made such activity legal, local governments can prohibit possession in these areas by "opting out." According to the County Technical Assistance Service, county legislative bodies were able to begin opting out after June 12 and may continue to do so even after the Sept. 1 deadline for the law to go into effect.
The law allows people with handgun carry permits to take them into public parks, natural areas, historic parks, nature trails, campgrounds, forest greenways, waterways or other similar public lands.
Conflicting legal advice
Lewis, the resolution sponsor, had been prepared to withdraw the proposal to opt out from the agenda at the August meeting, based on legal advice from Rob Goddard, the attorney for the county mayor, but instead asked that the vote be deferred until September after the attorney revised his opinion.
Lewis said he wanted to make sure all interested county residents have the opportunity to be heard.
The Maryville City Council on Aug. 3 became the first governmental body in Blount County to opt out of the law. The Alcoa City Council voted to opt out on Aug. 11.
Goddard had initially opined that, because all Blount County parks are overseen by the Parks and Recreation Commission, which is jointly funded by Blount County, Alcoa and Maryville, the ban was already in effect because of those votes.
Upon further review, Goddard opined that "it is obvious that the city of Maryville and the city of Alcoa's respective resolutions ... only affect parks which are owned or operated by the city of Alcoa and the city of Maryville respectively. ... if the county desires to prevent registered handgun owners from possessing handguns in parks ... the county would be required to pass a resolution."
County parks include Louisville Point Park, Everett Recreation Center and the Everett Athletic Complex, Eagleton Little League, Richard Williams Park and a small section of the Greenway Park called Frank Vogle Park.
License requirement fails
A motion to discuss a resolution that would require home improvement contractors, performing work where the contract is $3,000 to less than $25,000, to obtain a license, a bond and insurance, failed.
"This is a consumer protection," the sponsor, Ballard, said.
Some commissioners expressed skepticism.
"The passing of this -- it's going to force every handyman and small repair guy to get this license." Hasty said.