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Johnson City mayor hopes to keep guns out of city parks

Jennifer Sprouse • Dec 8, 2013 at 9:05 PM

Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin hopes the city will not be following an action neighboring Bristol took last week in repealing the ban on guns in its local parks.

The Bristol City Council approved reversing the ban by a 4-1 vote during its Tuesday meeting.

An Associated Press article said Bristol originally adopted the ban in 2009 after state law authorized concealed-carry permit holders to take guns into parks. Local municipalities were given an opt-out option to govern their parks as they deemed appropriate.

Bristol City Council members reportedly voted to repeal the ban after questions were posed about an individual’s right to arm and protect themselves.

Van Brocklin hopes Johnson City never changes its ordinance banning handguns in city-owned parks.

“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.”

Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois said his department “will enforce what our state legislators and our local commission deems appropriate as far as the law. There’s strong opinions on both sides of this issue, of course, whenever you talk about firearms, handguns. I think that our city is overall a safe city. The parks are fairly open.”

Sirois said his officers patrol the city parks regularly. He said his officers have a good working relationship with the city’s Parks and Recreation employees and workers, and will respond to any concerns they or the public have while at one of the parks.

Parks and Recreation Director Roger Blakeley said he follows city policy and said proper signage is displayed at the city parks.

“I love our parks. I want everybody to attend our parks,” Blakeley said. “I want everybody to have a great time at our parks.”

Jonesborough Police Chief Matt Hawkins said the town also prohibits guns in its parks.

Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said when the opt-out option was presented, the town of Erwin did not change its ordinance and currently allows conceal carry permit holders to carry handguns in the parks.

“We have not had any issues and I don’t expect that we will,” Tilson said.

For more information on Tennessee handgun laws, visit http://1.usa.gov/18h1ZHw.

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