- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee’s new guns in parks law could make it more difficult - and dangerous - for officers to do their jobs, two law enforcement representatives said Thursday at an event to urge reconsideration of the bill.

The roundtable was hosted by Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris of Memphis and Nashville state Rep. John Ray Clemmons, both Democrats, to highlight what they see as the problems with the law passed earlier this year to strip local governments of the power to bar people with handgun carry permits from being armed in parks.

A recent legal opinion from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery that the law extends to allowing guns at parks rented or operated by private entities has raised new concerns.

James Bolden, a retired director of police services in Memphis, said that events like the city’s Memphis in May festival attract more than 100,000 people, and that extra guns in the mix could lead to an “incident of catastrophic proportions” if people start shooting.

“My fear is that what’s going to play out on our streets and parks in some of our locations in the state of Tennessee is that we’re going to have a lot of mistakes on the part of our citizens that are armed,” Bolden said.

“What we’re going to do is place our officers in harm’s way, because what’s going happen is that officers are going to have to go into a venue and have to determine at a moment’s notice who’s a threat and who’s not.”

Franklin County Sherriff Tim Fuller agreed.

“Law enforcement in this nation is under siege over judgement calls,” he said. “We have a millisecond, a split second to make those decisions.”

Kevin Wilson, a vice president of the Country Music Association, said his organization worries about the effect of allowing weapons at its festival.

“When you have 25,000 people drinking together in a public park, conflict result between people and we don’t want that to escalate,” he said.

But Republican state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville told reporters later Thursday that handgun carry permit holders have gone through background checks and training that shows they are “unbelievably responsible.”

Ramsey said he doesn’t think there is any real uncertainty about the aims of the new law.

“The issue that some private entity couldn’t ban in a state park, that’s not confusion,” he said. “That was in the bill to begin with.”

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