East Tennessee facilities weigh options after passing of metal detectors, guns bill

The legislation will go into effect on July 1.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Many public facilities and parks will either have to buy metal detectors and hire security guards or allow handgun carry permit holders to bring in their gun after Gov. Bill Haslam signed a new bill into law on Friday.

Places like schools and libraries are exempt from the requirements, but places like Knoxville’s Convention Center would have to update their security procedures.

“That ought to be a decision of the property and I don’t see any reason why that decision should be preempted by state legislators,” City of Knoxville Law Director Charles Swanson said.

Previous story: Tennessee governor signs NRA-backed metal detector gun bill

Local governments will have the option to upgrade their security measures in public facilities by stationing a metal detecting device and a security officer at every public entrance, or allow those with handgun permits to carry in their firearms.

“We just don’t think people should be able to carry weapons into public facilities, but since the law was passed we will comply with what the law states,” Maryville Assistant City Manager Roger Campbell said.

Many city representatives expressed opposition to this bill because of the financial burden it will put on taxpayers.The mayors of Knoxville and Nashville even wrote letters to Gov. Haslam, urging him not to sign the bill.

Now that the legislation has been signed, city leaders have big decisions to make, like where to invest in these security upgrades and where to allow people to carry guns.

“Now we can make the decision to allow all handguns all the time, but frankly that decision is not as simple as it sounds,” Swanson said. “For example, for the Convention Center and for the Civic Coliseum and other public assembly areas, the folks that we do business with, the people we contract with to put on shows and types of entertainment events, they have in their contracts a requirement that we not allow firearms at these shows and events.”

There remain exemptions to this bill. For instance, places that already have a law enforcement and court operation, such as the Maryville Municipal Building and the Knoxville City-County Building, do not have to comply with the requirements.

Areas of concern for local leaders are the potential consequences form this bill, like the liability risks.

“A citizen who thinks they may have been aggrieved can file a lawsuit against the city for failure to comply with the law,” Campbell said.

Another challenge is finding room in the budget to finance these security changes.

“It becomes exponentially more expensive to operate your property under those circumstances,” Swanson said.

Just public venues alone, including the Convention Center, Coliseum and Civic Auditorium, are estimated to cost the city of Knoxville around $1 million in tax payer money to fund these security upgrades.

The legislation will go into effect on July 1.

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