Haslam to decide this week whether to sign Tennessee guns-in-parks bill

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that he will decide this week whether to sign a bill to allow people with handgun carry permits to be armed in city parks near schools.

The bill would allow permit holders to be armed in any state park — including greenways, playgrounds and sports fields.

The proposal was eventually stripped of a provision to allow permit holders to be armed at the state Capitol complex, a provision Haslam adamantly opposed.

However, the governor still expressed concerns about the proposal not being clear on how close a permit holder can be to a school activity.

Haslam got the bill on Tuesday and has 10 days to decide whether to sign, veto or allow the measure to become law without his signature. He told reporters Thursday that he plans to make a decision by the end of the week.

"We are looking at it and we'll have a decision sooner rather than later on it," Haslam said. "We'll have something this week."

Opponents say the final version of the legislation that both the Senate and House agreed to is still confusing in the case of school proximity.

The proposal states that if a school — or public college or university — is using a park then a permit holder "cannot be within the immediate vicinity of the school activity." But the bill does not define exactly what "immediate vicinity" means.

House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley said he has concerns about that part of the bill, as well as the overall intent of the proposal that strips local governments of the power to ban firearms in parks.

"We allowed those who control the parks, those who pay for the parks, to make their own decisions about what to do with the parks," Fitzhugh said. "That's local control, and this bill took it away. I think from that perspective alone it's ripe for a veto."

Haslam opposed similar legislation in the past, and as Knoxville mayor supported a 2009 city council vote that kept in place a ban on handguns in some of the city's parks.

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