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Loudon County woman sues Knoxville over gun ban at Tennessee Valley Fair


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — A Loudon County woman is suing the city of Knoxville over its decision to ban guns at Chilhowee Park during last month's Tennessee Valley Fair.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/1OnO0Dp) Pandora Vreeland claims she could not safely attend the fair because of the gun ban. The 60-year-old says she is a target of would-be assailants because of her age. The suit also claims that "general interest events at 'gun-free' zones are uniquely susceptible to violent crime."

Vreeland claims the only Chilhowee Park events she will be able to attend are gun shows, "which have armed security and are generally quite safe," according to the lawsuit.

Gov. Bill Haslam in April signed into law a bill allowing handgun carry permit holders to bring guns into local parks. However, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero has said Chilhowee Park is not subject to the new law.

In a written statement last month, she said that despite its name Chilhowee Park is not a city park but rather "a public assembly, entertainment and education venue used for civic events and by contractors for special events."

A July advisory opinion from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery declared the guns-in-parks law is so broad that local governments can't block permit holders from carrying guns at any events held in city- or county-owned parks or other recreational facilities. The law applies even when the events are ticketed and operated by a third-party contractor, like concerts, the opinion states.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office has said that July opinion was in response to questions from a Memphis lawmaker and could not necessarily be applied to Chilhowee Park. State Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, has requested an opinion on the matter from Slatery's office, but the attorney general's office has not yet responded.

The National Rifle Association issued a news release saying it supports Vreeland's lawsuit.

Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com

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