Nashville TN May 27 2017 Public facilities across Tennessee, including in Nashville, that have posted signs prohibiting firearms will now be required to install new security measures or allow handgun permit holders to carry guns into those spaces.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the controversial bill into law Friday, after some opposition to the Republican-backed legislation.
Parks that are used by schools, as well as schools and libraries where guns are banned, would not have to install metal detecting devices and security guards or representatives. But other public facilities, such as Music City Central, Nashville’s main bus depot where signage currently prohibits the carrying of firearms, would have to add the new security measures.
Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals released a statement saying the law allows jurisdictions to gain more control.
“This bill also 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,” the statement said.
Licensed health and mental health facilities, buildings with law enforcement and judicial proceedings and Head Start centers are also exempt from the additional security requirements.
The new bill follows the guns-in-parks law, approved in 2015, which prevented local governments from banning people with handgun permits from carrying their weapons in a park.
Sponsor Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, told the House Civil Justice Subcommittee in March that when lawmakers approved the guns-in-parks law it "got into a very hairy area of law" on exactly when and how cities and local governments could ban firearms in certain areas.
"Quite frankly, we may have caused more questions than we answered," he said, adding that he hoped his legislation would clarify those questions.
Haslam said prior to the bill’s passage that his office worked to make the legislation "more pleasing to local governments."
But Nashville Mayor Megan Barry sent Haslam a letter on May 11 asking the governor to veto the legislation, saying the bill would “negatively impact local governments such as Nashville.”
"Our concern is for the safety of our traveling public, a large percentage of which are school age children," Barry, a Democrat, wrote in the letter, which was first reported by the Associated Press.
"In addition, we are concerned about provisions that would allow for the tripling of a plaintiff's attorney's fees for those challenging local government actions, as this may encourage frivolous lawsuits with the promise of a larger payout for attorneys," Barry wrote.
The bill also would also result in local governments incurring an estimated $1 million in costs as a result of employing additional armed security guards and another $100,000 in one-time funds to pay for guards, metal detectors and bag checks, according to a fiscal note on the bill released Feb. 27.
Barry’s office said the mayor would not offer an additional statement after the letter she sent on May 11.
The law becomes effective July 1.