Despite opposition from the Department of Environment and Conservation, a House subcommittee approved a bill yesterday that will allow permit holders to bring guns into state parks.
Supporters of the bill say allowing guns in parks will make visitors feel safer, but TDEC Commissioner Jim Fyke says parks are already safe.
He cites statistics from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Of an estimated 100 million visitors to state parks over the past four years, TBI says only 22 crimes against people occurred.
Fyke says the low number of crimes is due partly to the gun ban in state parks. He says allowing guns may cause more dangerous situations for rangers.
“Question: how are our rangers going to distinguish legal from non-legal handgun carriers without asking for proof and risking an unfortunate confrontation between all parties involved, which could put not only our officer in harm’s way but could also put some innocent bystanders at some risk?”
Despite his testimony, the bill passed 4 to 2. It now goes to the full House Judiciary Committee.
There are 53 state parks with 22 in Middle Tennessee including Montgomery Bell, Fall Creek Falls and Bicentennial Mall.
correction: As first aired, we erroneously reported that the 22 crimes in state parks involved guns, and that the bill would require permit holders to keep their guns in vehicles while visiting state parks.