KNOXVILLE - A proposal to allow Tennesseans to carry handguns in public parks and recreational areas faces a committee vote next week.
The legislation sponsored by state Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, was introduced before the Virginia Tech massacre and does not propose allowing guns on college campuses, but Nicely said he was interested in that, too.
"I do think it's something that we maybe ought to consider looking at next year," he said. "There has been some talk about doing that. What happened at Virginia Tech is an example of what can happen if there's nobody there to stop it."
Niceley introduced his bill to prevent rapes in state parks, he said. Then Rep. Rob Briley, D-Nashville, amended the legislation to allow permit holders to carry guns in any public park, playground or civic center operated by state or local government - a move Nicely said was meant to kill the bill.
"But I think the votes are there to bring it out of committee as he amended it," Niceley said.
Briley did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
David Kopel, co-author of the law school textbook "Gun Control and Gun Rights," said Tennessee is more restrictive about where handguns can be carried than many states because it bans guns in parks, private schools and colleges and universities.
State Department of Safety officials say more than 172,000 Tennesseans have handgun carry permits and few of them carry their guns where they are not allowed, but that did happen last year.
As a youth baseball game was breaking up at a public park in Dandridge, Samuel L. Noe shot three of his former in-laws, killing two and wounding a third before he was fatally shot during a struggle over his gun.
The Knox County Sheriff's Office's Sgt. Mike Lett - who teaches a course required of anyone who wants to carry a handgun in that county - said permit inquiries have been up since January when a young Knoxville couple was carjacked, tortured and murdered.
"That was such a horrific incident," he said. "We've had some cases of men who already had carry permits bringing their wives to take the course."