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Atoka takes a stand on guns in parks

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Atoka’s elected officials are calling on state legislators to oppose the bill that will take away a city’s right to decide if guns should be allowed in municipally-funded parks and recreational areas. 

As introduced, S.B. 1496 permits anyone with a handgun carry permit to carry a gun in any state, county or municipal park or other recreation area. 

The bill provides that any previously adopted ordinance or resolution prohibiting guns in local parks will no longer apply. 

In 2009, the City of Covington was among the local entities that decided not to allow guns in its parks. The Town of Atoka took no action on the measure, but its officials want to keep their right to make those decisions.

“It seems that, in some senses, the attitude or the approach taken by the general assembly when it comes to local issues has changed in recent years,” town administrator Brian Koral said. “They have become much more willing to get involved in issues in the past they officially left alone. 

At last week’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, a resolution that formally states the town’s opposition and urges Tennessee State Representative Debra Moody (R-Covington) and State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to oppose it as well was passed. 

Koral clarified that the town’s opposition was directly related to having its rights taken away, not to carrying firearms in parks.  

“We’re not taking a stance on that issue, that discussion’s already been had by the town, but the action this resolution would take would express to our representatives that we believe that’s a local issue,” he said. “The 2009 law did a great job of leaving that in the hands of local control. There’s been a lot of discussion in Nashville about federal regulations meddling in state’s affairs and they didn’t like that, but sometimes they don’t have a problem with state regulations meddling in local affairs.”

He believes citizens should ultimately decide what’s best for their communities.

“I think if the citizens of Atoka or Munford, through their elected bodies, have expressed a desire to restrict that right in those parks, then I think the local legislature is the best one to deal with what their community needs.”

The bill passed the state senate on Feb. 13. Norris opposed the bill on its third consideration, but voted in favor of it on its final consideration. It is currently under review in the house.

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