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Gun-in-parks law may hurt school sports

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

The new state law that allows handgun permit holders to go armed in public parks went into effect Tuesday.

That’s a cause for concern for some school officials, since student athletes play games in city parks.

“I don’t want to step on any city’s business, but if we’ve got our kids playing at those places, and they’re going to allow people to bring guns in there, then we’re going to have to make other arrangements,” school board member Mike “Brillo” Miller said.

Gun-rights supporters have praised the new law.

Miller said he’s more worried about student safety than the Second Amendment.

“It’s all right for everybody (to have) the right to bear arms,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with that, but I have a problem with it being at a ball park where some parents lose their composure.”

Director of Schools Toni McGriff said every local community that has a city government have parks with athletic fields that are used by the students.

“At Oliver Springs they use Arrowhead Park,” she said. “Here (in Kingston) they use Fort Southwest Point. At Harriman, they have some fields and then of course in Rockwood at the complex.”

According to Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr., a permit holder would be violating the law if he or she carried a gun to a game.

Cooper issued an opinion on the matter in July, which says state law prohibits handgun carry permit holders from possessing firearms in public parks during times when the athletic fields or other recreational facilities are actually being used by schools.

That law is not superseded by the new state law that allows permit holders to go armed in parks.  

Roane County Executive Mike Farmer said he thinks it’s wise to ban guns at athletic events.

“I don’t think you want a sporting event that could have a controversial call and everybody be packing,” Farmer said. “That could be more problematic. Where there’s no kind of highly sensitive type thing, I don’t know that there’s a problem.”