This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, April 27, 2015:
Former Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen (1951-1969) was such a studied and careful elocutionist that he was called “The Wizard of Ooze.” Known for such aphorisms as “A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talk about real money” and “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times,” his most famous one was this: “When I feel the heat, I see the light.”
So it likely was for Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Back in 2009, when he was mayor of Knoxville, he opposed the right of citizens to carry weapons in the city's parks. But as his political aspirations grew, he must have known he couldn't take this anti-gun attitude with him to Nashville. And so, as momentum favoring the Second Amendment continued to grow, Haslam began to change his attitude toward guns and gun owners.
It came to a head last Friday when HB 995, a bill invalidating a previous law giving authority to local municipalities to restrict guns in parks owned by, operated by, or regulated by them, arrived on his desk, Haslam was quick to sign it into law, making it effective immediately.
Many were hoping the bill would have gotten to his desk about two weeks sooner, in time for the arrival of thousands of nra members attending its national convention. But there were some wrinkles that had to be smoothed out, some deals that had to be cut, some compromises that had to be made.
Although the bill overrode the power of local cities, townships, and municipalities to restrict gun ownership in their parks, it kept the capitol grounds “gun free,” and signs announcing that guns weren't allowed in parks were allowed to stay in place. In addition, anyone carrying within the “immediate vicinity” of a school-sponsored event in a park would be asked to leave.
Although Haslam admitted that those local governments would likely have some difficulty defining and enforcing the “immediate vicinity” rule because it wasn't defined in the bill, the NRA was happy. Chris Cox, head of the NRA's lobbying effort, the Institute for Legislative Affairs, explained:
Law-abiding Tennesseans have a fundamental right to protect themselves, whether in their homes or in parks. This [bill] will remove a patchwork of laws throughout the state that could have turned law-abiding citizens into unintentional criminals.
This isn't how Kathleen Wright saw it. As a spokeswoman for the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action, she complained:
Moms across the state drew a line in the sandbox and urged legislators and Gov. Haslam to reject this dangerous bill, and now parents will be left wondering whether the person standing next to their child on the swing set is carrying a concealed, loaded weapon.
It's not the weapon, it's who is carrying it and what his or her intentions might be regarding youngsters on the swing set. Criminals have been carrying guns in parks (and elsewhere) for years without regard for such niceties as rules and regulations and prohibitions. Those only apply to law-abiding citizens. And in the event of an incident, what are those disarmed moms going to do?
Wright needn't worry about those carrying concealed. They have carefully considered their duties and responsibilities, have paid a fee, applied for the permit, taken a gun safety class and have spent hours on a shooting range. Only then, after considering and accepting the responsibility, and considering the aftermath of a shooting incident – every bullet comes with an attorney – does a law-abiding citizen make the decision to carry. Many of them adopt internally the mantra of a sheepdog: they don't want to but they're willing to.
Despite opposition by mayors of Memphis, Chattanooga, and Nashville, along with Wright's Moms, Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Safe Tennessee Project, Haslam remained steadfast.
Prior to Friday (the law became effective immediately), Wright's Moms had to worry, not about guns, but about the intentions of those carrying them. Now her anxiety, and those of her supporters, should have lessened considerably in light of the fact that those parks are no longer “hunting preserves for psychopaths.”
And all because an anti-gun mayor decided it was politically expedient to become a pro-gun governor. After having felt the heat, he saw the light.
Huffington Post: You Can Now Bring Guns To Parks In Tennessee
Tennessean.com: Haslam signs guns-in-parks bill
USA Today: Tennessee strikes down local laws banning guns in parks
Breitbart.com: Moms Demand Action Criticizes TN Governor for Law Allowing Moms to Carry Guns in Parks
Guns.com: Haslam bucks pressure, signs contentious Tennessee ‘guns in parks' bill
NRAILA.org: NRA Expands Second Amendment Rights in Tennessee
Quote from Everett Dirksen: When I feel the heat, I see the light