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Bills to allow guns in wildlife areas, state parks advance

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Bills to allow guns in wildlife areas, state parks advance

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II • Associated Press • March 4, 2009

Proposals allowing guns in state parks and wildlife areas are among handgun-related bills advancing in the Legislature.


The two measures passed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Their counterparts have been assigned to a similar committee in the Senate.


Rep. Janis Sontany voted against the bill allowing guns in state parks. The Nashville Democrat said she's concerned the legislation may eventually involve local parks, where there are playgrounds with children.


In a subcommittee later Wednesday, Sontany proposed an amendment to delete local parks from legislation that would allow guns in all parks, but it failed.


The bill sponsored by Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville, eventually passed the subcommittee with an amendment that gives local governments the option of allowing permit holders to carry weapons within local parks, or certain areas of the parks, such as greenways or bike trails.


"The permit holders are not a threat to safety," Tindell said. "Weapons are still prohibited in the parks by the general public."


In her objection to the bill, Sontany cited testimony from the state commissioner of environment and conservation who told the subcommittee last month that he opposed the legislation because it sends the message that parks are not safe, when they are.


"He felt that state parks were safe, and I think that state parks are safe as well," she said.


Other legislation that passed the subcommittee includes a bill that would allow current and retired judges to get a handgun carry permit with the same rights and privileges as a police officer, and a resolution that calls for a joint legislative committee to study Tennessee's gun laws.


In the House Judiciary Committee, action was delayed on bills that would prohibit guns in restaurants after 11 p.m. and make it a misdemeanor to reveal who has a handgun permit.


That legislation sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bass, a Prospect Democrat, would make information about handgun holders confidential. Unauthorized publication would be a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $2,500. Those who could be fined include media outlets that report someone has a handgun permit.


Open records advocates question the bill's constitutionality and say it could hurt efforts to find out whether permits are issued properly.


Bass said he's considering amending the legislation to change the penalty and possibly exempt certain agencies after the Tennessee Human Services Department said the bill could be a hindrance.


"They need access to this information for deadbeat dads," Bass said.


We still need some more calls on these bills that have not passed in to legislature and calles to your reps to support the ones that have passed.

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