NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Everytown for Gun Safety and the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America today expressed deep disappointment over Governor Haslam’s decision to sign House Bill 995 into law, legislation that forces all Tennessee towns and cities to allow guns in their parks and recreation areas. HB 995 eliminates local officials’ authority to make public safety decisions aimed at protecting families and children from gun violence.
At the same time, Governor Haslam sent a letter to Lt. Governor Ramsey and Speaker Harwell in which he plainly expresses his concerns about HB 995, stating “community leaders have the best sense of the specific activities taking place in their parks as well as the unique conditions that exist in and around those area.” The Governor also acknowledged that he’s “concerned that an unintended consequence may be operational challenges for local leaders in managing their parks in a safe, effective, and consistent manner.”
“Like all parents, my top priority is my children’s safety, and today Governor Haslam disappointed all of us by choosing the interests of the gun lobby over the safety of Tennessee children—while also admitting to ‘unintended consequences’ for our children’s safety,” said Kathleen Chandler Wright, a volunteer leader with the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Moms across the state drew a line in the sandbox and urged legislators and Governor Haslam to reject this dangerous bill, and now parents will be left wondering whether the person standing next to their child on the swing set is carrying a concealed, loaded weapon. But, let’s not forget: Moms and gun safety advocates have helped defeat several other dangerous gun bills this legislative session, including efforts that would have forced our children’s schools and colleges to allow guns and allowed dangerous people to carry concealed loaded guns in public without a permit. While we’re incredibly disappointed in Governor Haslam’s decision and his lack of protection for our children when it comes to their safety in parks, we’re gratified that other gun lobby-backed bills failed to make it out of the state legislature. Along with our more than 47,000 supporters in Tennessee, we’ll continue to fight for safer gun laws that keep our children and communities safe.”
Forcing all Tennessee parks and recreation areas to allow guns has been a priority for the gun lobby since the State Legislature voted to give the decision-making authority to local governments in 2009. In fact, that same year, then-Mayor of Knoxville Bill Haslam supported the Knoxville City Council’s decision to keep guns out of their public parks. Once elected Governor, Bill Haslam expressed “major concerns” each time legislators vowed to force towns and cities to allow guns. This year, HB 995 was drafted as a gift to the National Rifle Association, intended to take effect before their 2015 Annual Meeting in Nashville—but the bill ran into major hurdles.
However, Tennessee Moms were able to successfully block efforts to pass other gun lobby bills this session, including bills that would have put guns in K-12 schools and on college campuses and others that would have removed all permitting and training requirements to carry a gun in public.
The Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action was active throughout the 2015 legislative session, driving thousands of calls and emails asking elected leaders to stand on the side of public safety. Earlier this month, hundreds of gun safety advocates and gun violence survivors joined on the sidelines of the 144th National Rifle Association Annual Meeting at Riverfront Park earlier this month to rally for safer gun laws and oppose dangerous gun bills around the country – including HB 995.
Governor Haslam’s decision to sign HB 995 into law after the close of the 2015 legislative session follows a series of defeats around the country for the gun lobby, which has fallen short on a wide range of efforts including legislation that would have let people carry hidden, loaded guns in public without a permit (defeated already in Tennessee, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia) and bills that would have forced guns on college campuses (defeated already in Arkansas, Colorado, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming).
Other bills that failed this legislative session in Tennessee include:
- House Bill 535/ Senate Bill 780 would have allowed dangerous people to carry concealed handguns in public without a permit, removed the prohibition on guns in private K-12 schools, claimed to nullify all federal gun laws, and allowed out-of-state special interest groups to sue Tennessee mayors and local law enforcement officials for enforcing gun laws;
- House Bill 684/ Senate Bill 784 would have allowed dangerous people such as convicted stalkers, certain domestic abusers, and people with no firearms training, to openly carry loaded guns in public without a permit; and
- House Bill 320/ Senate Bill 628 would have forced all colleges and universities, K-12 schools, and local governments to allow people to carry guns on their property.