KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The National Rifle Association (NRA) is supporting a lawsuit that challenges the city of Knoxville’s decision to ban guns at Chilhowee Park.
The lawsuit, filed by Pandora Vreeland of Loudon, is against the city of Knoxville and Mayor Madeline Rogero. It was filed Wednesday morning in Knox County Circuit Court.
According to the lawsuit, Vreeland claims that she could not safely attend the Tennessee Valley Fair in September because she was forbidden to carry her firearm. She is requesting the city of Knoxville lift the ban on guns at Chillhowee Park for all events except school functions and school athletics events.
“Plaintiff, given her age, is a target for would-be assailants at Chilhowee Park.” Vreelands vs. City of Knoxville
“The Mayor and the City of Knoxville are in clear violation of Tennessee law,“ said Lacey Biles, director of NRA State and Local Affairs. “The 5 million members of the NRA stand in full support of the plaintiff and look forward to a positive resolution.”
Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill to allow guns in all Tennessee Parks in April. However, the city of Knoxville said despite its name, they do not consider Chilhowee Park a park because it is not managed by the city’s Parks and Recreation department.
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The city currently classifies Chilhowee Park as an entertainment and public gathering venue, so the state guns in parks law does not apply. This allows them to ban guns for events like the Tennessee Valley Fair.
However, gun rights advocates argue that it doesn’t matter if Chillhowee Park is a park or note. They say the law appies to properties owned, used or operated by municipalities for recreational purposes and events like the Tennessee Valley Fair are clearly recreational.
“We believe state law is clear, and Knoxville is violating that law with regard to Chilhowee Park. We hope to have the issue addressed in Court soon,” said Vreeland’s attorney Lela Hollabaugh. Eric Vreeland with the City of Knoxville said the city cannot comment on pending litigation.
Additionally, according to the lawsuit, Knoxville city zoning law states that a property is a “park” if it is an outdoor recreational facility that has areas of picnicking, sport and playground equipment. Vreeland’s lawsuit claims Chilhowee Park should be classified as a park because the 81-acre property contains a lake, picnic shelters, arenas, playground and is open to the public.
The Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA) was also planning on filing a lawsuit. Their attorney, Andrew Fox said they are aware of Vreeland’s lawsuit and the TFA will have to discuss if they want to pursue their own lawsuit.