By SAM HATCHERThe Wilson Post Members of the Lebanon City Council have not formally adopted a position on the new “guns in parks” law passed by the state legislature although there appears to be considerable support among council members to not exercise its right to option out of the law. Councilors Kathy Warmath and William Farmer both indicated that they would not want the city to option out of the law, while Alex Buhler said he’s still undecided. The legislation, sponsored in the state senate by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, makes it legal for gun permit holders to carry firearms in public parks. The statute allows local governments to option out of the law if they so chose. A number of concerns have been raised about allowing guns in public parks and several local governments have already moved to option out of the law therefore keeping the status of guns in public parks illegal. The “guns in parks” law, as it has been tagged, would allow permit holders to carry weapons in all public parks including youth league baseball parks, certain public recreational areas, and community parks such as the Don Fox Community Park in Lebanon. Many of the arguments espoused against having guns in parks are centered around youth activities. Wilson County Schools Director Mike Davis, who up front notes that he is an avid supporter of Second Amendment rights and is a gun owner himself, says having guns where youth activities are taking place is not a good idea.
Davis, a retired member of the Army National Guard, said he would encourage the Lebanon City Council and other local governments looking at this law to exercise their right to option out. He points out that “having guns in school is not a good idea and that’s why there is a law that prohibits this,” adding that guns do not need to be in the proximity of students or children. Buhler maintains that he has not committed to a position on the issue, although he said he believes the majority of the city council would not favor the City of Lebanon optioning out of the law. Referring to his 30 years with the City of Lebanon Recreational Department, Buhler said he had seen several incidents when parents and others had become so emotionally charged that violence erupted. He said he had seen arguments break out at youth baseball games and could remember events in the past when he had called police to a city park to quiet a situation or remove a disruptive party. Buhler said he worries about people having guns in these situations and what would happen if they were to fire their weapons. Currently Lebanon High School plays its baseball and girls’ softball games at the City of Lebanon park near the school. If the city council does not option out of the new guns in parks law, it will be permissible for permit holders to bring guns to the ball park. Davis says he believes this could be a dangerous situation. “There could be an accident where a gun is discharged that could injure someone or there may even be a situation where emotions become so heated that a gun may threaten the life of someone,” Davis said.
Buhler’s position is somewhat aligned with that of Davis. Buhler sees a number of issues that may arise where guns are permitted that could cause serious injury to innocent bystanders. He pointed out that there have been no problems that he can recall with the existing law that prohibits guns in parks adding that if that is the case then why should there be a need to change the law so that guns will now be permitted. Unless a local government elects to option out of the law the new law is to become effective on Sept. 1. So far Brentwood, Williamson County and Murfreesboro have elected to option out of the new law. CEO Sam Hatcher may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.