Guns In Parks Bill Debate Heats Up As New Amphitheater Opens

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jul 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 08:26:06-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Are guns allowed in public places like the new Ascend Amphitheater? State law said yes, but the venue said no.

It's a complex situation created by the Legislature when they passed the hastily-written guns in parks bill.

"Now we as a state have to figure out how to deal with the changed landscape and ramifications of those that passed," said Senator Lee Harris, D-Memphis.

This week the state attorney general released an opinion saying private organizations which operate in public parks cannot stop licensed gun holders from carrying their firearms into the venue. However, so far guns have been banned at Ascend.

Live Nation, which has been operating Ascend Amphitheater said, "no comment" when we reached out to them about the issue.

"It’s unnecessarily confusing," Tennessee Firearms Association Executive Director John Harris said. "It’s not clear with what they've done as to whether or not it's a prohibited place or not."

He said laws this confusing have likely been unconstitutional and while advocates believed citizens should have the right to protect themselves in public places, opponents disagreed.

"We feel the only individuals properly trained to an active shooter situation in a crowded, possibly dark area are trained law enforcement officers," Beth Roth, Policy Director of the Safe Tennessee Project said.

So while state law may say it’s legal for permit holders to carry a firearm in public parks, Harris advised to tread carefully.

"You really have to exercise a lot of caution because you may have an officer that reads the statue differently than you do. And they get to make the arrest based on what they understand the law to be, not what you understand it to be," Harris said.