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Lebanon opts out of guns in parks

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By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post

After several citizens voiced their opinions for and against the guns in parks law, Lebanon City Council voted to opt out of it, banning handgun carry permit holders from bringing their handguns in public parks and other similar public places.

Ward 5 Councilor Haywood Barry sponsored the resolution to opt out of what has come to be known as the “guns in parks” law passed this year by the state legislature. It was seconded by Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes.

Barry announced before the discussion that he would vote to opt out of the law.

“I’m not as worried about the guns I can see,” said Billy Weeks, commissioner of Public Safety, “but it’s the ones I can’t see that worry me.”

When asked by Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler if he could enforce this, Weeks said, “No, I can’t. Not unless you want officers to frisk people before they come into the parks.”

Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer asked if the cemetery counted as a public place under this resolution and City Attorney Andy Wright said that it would and if the resolution passed, no handguns would be allowed in the cemeteries.

Wright said “No one is allowed to carry a handgun in a park that is being used by a school regardless of this new law,” to which Buhler asked how any permit holder would know when a school event was occurring in a given park at a given time. Wright replied that there would be no way of knowing for sure.

“This is a distorted resolution,” said Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath. “I don’t have a permit, but if I’m jogging in the park and someone attacks me and there is a permit holder nearby with their gun who helps me, I’m not going to cry about them having their gun around children. I’m going to applaud them for helping me.

“This is not about my right to bear arms,” Warmath said. “It’s about my right to not die.”

When the vote was cast, Buhler, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Huddleston, Hayes and Barry voted for the ban. Farmer and Warmath voted against it.

Warmath said that after further consideration, because of the vagueness of the wording in the resolution, that any city-owned property was now to be a gun-free zone.

“You can’t have a gun anywhere outside your home,” Warmath said after the meeting. “We have basically put a blanket over the whole city … You can’t carry on the streets because the city owns those. You can’t carry on the sidewalks because the city owns those.”

Warmath said that she plans to draw up an amendment to the resolution “that would opt out for the Greer Building, City Hall, the Don Fox Park, Baird Park and the Jimmy Floyd Center.”

“I want to call a special meeting to fix this because I believe this resolution is too vague,” Warmath said.

The next scheduled meeting for the City Council is Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. at Lebanon City Hall.

Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at ben@wilsonpost.com.

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