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Referendum on guns in city parks?

Thursday’s Oak Ridge Observer reported that Alex Moseley  is circulating a petition to force a referendum on the matter of whether handgun carry permit holders should be allowed to carry guns in Oak Ridge city parks.  The strange thing about this news is that there is no provision in the city charter — and apparently not in state law, either — for citizens to petition for a referendum to override the City Council resolution to “opt out” of the state law that would otherwise allow permit holders to carry guns in parks.

State law does allow citizens to petition for referendums over general obligation bond issues (that law was the basis for the Crestpointe referendum in 2007 and the referendum on the mall project several years before that) , but nothing allows for a referendum over any other type of City Council action (otherwise, we’d probably have  referendums in Oak Ridge almost every month).  Furthermore, the city attorney tells me that the General Assembly didn’t put any  provision for a referendum in the state law that allows guns in parks.

The charter does have a provision allowing for recall petitions against City Council members, and it was rumored that handgun advocates were going to try to recall those of us who voted to keep guns out of our parks. However, the newspaper article clearly indicates that Moseley isn’t pursuing a recall campaign. The article goes into great detail on the requirements that Moseley’s pettition would need to meet (2,610 signatures in 60 days) and how he expects to use the Memphis Commercial Appeal‘s database to identify the local handgun permit holders who are assumed to support the proposed referendum. Also, there’s an editorial suggesting that the referendum will teach City Council that we should follow “the will of the people”.  What’s missing is any  indication of the supposed legal basis for this petition drive and referendum.

It’s hard to believe that Moseley, who was the Republican nominee for the Tennessee House of Representatives last year, is unaware of the law.

Oh, and as long as assertions are being made about the “will of the people” regarding this measure, it should be noted that the great majority (well over 60%) of the many people who contacted me about the opt-out resolution  favored opting out (that is they opposed allowing guns in our city parks).

I suppose  maybe we can  chalk this story up to  confusion caused by the long hot days of August…



  1. Ray Kircher says:

    This will get down to the meaning of “Local Option” in our laws, or does “Opt-Out” mean something different?

    So how many people called you concerning our local gun laws?

  2. Ellen Smith says:

    The volume of public contact on this issue was unusual. There were 140 different Oak Ridgers who contacted me specifically regarding this matter (by phone, e-mail, or both) during the one week leading up to the opt-out vote. I filed many of the e-mail messages into a folder about this issue; that folder now contains 201 messages. Many of the e-mail messages I received were very long, and several contained attachments or links to online articles and videos endorsed by the senders.

  3. Ray Kircher says:

    Thank you Ellen. I hoped you had more since this is now a local issue. I believe you had more responses than daily users of our parks. I am in favor of protection since our police cannot provide it, but I do not use the parks for that very reason and even with guns do not plan to use them, too unsafe.

  4. LEROY GILLIA,M says:

    I have always found Oak Ridge to be a funny little town. The Oak Ridge city government, especially. I have noticed how quickly that city council; jumped through hoops to put up signs to protect citizens from guns in its parks and walking trails
    but I fail to see one little sign protecting citizens from the walking hazards of horse manure on the side walks on Tuskegee. I noticed that the rowers are protected by signs to not feed the water fowl because we would not want a rower to imjure themselves by stepping on “duck do” but its alright for people to wading through horse manure to go to Wal-Mart. Why put the horse riders in jail for 11 months and 29 days and a $2500 fine for pooping on sidewalks??

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