Press staff writer Jennifer Sprouse reported last week that Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin doesn’t like the idea of the city lifting a ban on guns inside its municipal parks.
In 2009, Johnson City was among more than 70 local governments to opt out of a new state law allowing Tennesseans with a state handgun carry permit to tote their weapons inside a state or local park.
Recently, Bristol joined a growing list of towns and cities to reverse that decision. The City Council there voted 4-1 to lift the ban after being lobbied by gun owners.
Van Brocklin told the Press he hopes the City Commission doesn’t decide to do the same in Johnson City.
“The more that you have guns in the possession of people in the public, greater is the chance that at some point somebody’s going to get angry and they’re going to pull a gun out and somebody’s going to get hurt,” Van Brocklin said. “I’m not in favor of this proliferation of guns in the public. There’s definitely a group of people locally who would like to see us go ahead and allow a more expansive availability of carrying a weapon.
“The state legislature has gone too far in allowing that and to what degree I can continue to restrict (guns in parks) within my own municipality, I will.”
Law enforcement officials say they have not seen any outbreaks of violence as a result of residents not being able to carry their firearms into Johnson City parks.
Supporters of the ban also argue that if citizens truly believe they must carry a gun to protect themselves in a municipal park, then city leaders have a much more serious public safety problem to deal with.
As originally written, the state law would have erased all local ordinances that prohibit guns in city or town parks. Legislators eventually reached a compromise in 2009 to allow local governments to vote to continue gun bans in their parks.
Some state lawmakers, however, would like to revoke that local option.
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