Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a law requiring cities to spend more on security or allow people to carry handguns at parks, fairs, auditoriums and other public venues.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry had asked Haslam to veto the bill. The city of Knoxville was also opposed, as were gun control advocates, including the Safe Tennessee Project and Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America.
The National Rifle Association supports the measure.
According to a May 12 press release, the Tennessee Firearms Association said of the law signed by Gov. Haslam that it “could have been a good bill but that may have been intentionally amended to make the situation worse for gun owners. This bill significantly changes Tennessee law for the worse and we suspect most legislators who voted on it were not even aware of the problem in the bill.”
The law provides lawful gun owners with a private cause of action to challenge local gun control policies that run counter to state law.
The new Tennessee law “leaves to local governments the ultimate decision of whether to prohibit firearms in local government buildings, and the new provisions in this bill give local governments and their permittees more control over security at large entertainment venues,” said Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals, according to the Associated Press.
Places like Bridgestone Arena and Nissan Stadium that already have heavy security are allowed to continue banning handguns under the new law. The law signed by Haslam on Friday clarifies a 2015 state law allowing guns in public parks, which some said could lead to guns being allowed at Bridgestone Arena and Nissan Stadium.
Schools, libraries, health facilities, law enforcement offices and buildings where judicial proceedings take place are exempted from the new law.
There is some confusion about whether public buses that carry school children will be exempted, or if heightened security measures will need to be added to transit stations to prohibit handguns, according to the Associated Press.
Barry has said she is worried about children at the Music City Central bus station in downtown Nashville and on city buses, which are used by thousands of students.
State Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) pointed out that there is another state law that says it’s a felony to bring guns into a facility used for school purposes, the Associated Press reported.
Supporters of the new law say that gun-free zones do little to deter criminals.