Knox County Commission on Monday voted 13-5 in favor of allowing handgun permit holders to carry their weapons in county parks.
Before the vote, several residents spoke in favor of allowing guns in parks, arguing the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants them the right to do so and that there have been few instances of problems with violence in Knox County Parks.
Jim McEvers, a citizen attending the meeting, said "It would seem more of a concern if someone without a permit can carry a gun into a park knowing he is the only one. Folks with concealed carry permits can carry in grocery stores, shopping centers and supermarkets. Allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves."
Earlier this year, the Tennessee General Assembly approved legislation allowing handgun permit holders to carry their guns in local and state parks. The bill also included a provision in which cities and counties could opt out of the law.
Douglas Dutton urged the commission to "rely on facts not emotion. Of 442 cities and counties (in Tennessee) only 70 have opted out."
Rebecca Green, another resident, declared people with handgun permits "are not vigilantes."
Those opposed to allowing guns in parks expressed concern because some parents get emotional during sporting events in county parks.
Commissioner Richard Briggs reasoned that there has been no instances of people using baseball bats in confrontations at county parks so he didn't expect parents to resort to using guns.
"There's no evidence guns in parks has any impact on health and safety," he said.
Commissioner Amy Broyles, who proposed banning guns in parks, said she does not have a handgun permit, but she excelled at marksmanship while involved with ROTC in high school.
"I've been assaulted," Broyles said. "I've been raped. I'm very concerned that there's evil in the world. I'm concerned about children in these recreational leagues."
She also noted that the city of Knoxville voted last week to uphold a longtime ban on guns in parks and there would be a "patchwork" of greenways - some where guns are allowed and some where they are not. She said she was concerned that guns in parks could lead to confrontations when tempers get heated at children's recreational events.
The 13-5 vote, which elicited a hearty applause from the audience, was strictly along party lines, with the five Democrats voting against allowing guns in parks and the remaining votes against a ban all being by Republicans.
Voting to allow guns in parks were Briggs, Tony Norman, Ivan Harmon, Mike Hammond, Craig Leuthold, Brad Anders, Greg "Lumpy" Lambert, R. Larry Smith, Michele Carringer, Bud Armstrong, Dave Wright, Mike Brown and Paul Pinkston.
Voting for the ban were Broyles, Sam McKenzie, Thomas "Tank" Strickland, Mark Harmon and Finbarr Saunders.