BOMA reconsiders firearms in Town Hall

Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen reacted to recent state legislation by reconsidering its ordinance prohibiting firearms in Farragut Town Hall.

“Recently, the state legislature enacted some new legislation that went into effect July 1, and as a result of that, Alderman [Bob] Markli requested we put this item on the agenda to discuss tonight,” David Smoak, Town administrator, said during the Board’s meeting Thursday, July 27. “The Town’s policy for the Town Hall building has been, as you can see when you walk into the building, that firearms are prohibited in the Town Hall.”

Smoak asked for a decision on how the Board would like to proceed forward with the policy. While it did not take formal action, the Board did agree for Town staff to be surveyed on how they feel about allowing people with gun permits to enter Town Hall with their firearms. They also would be asked about installing ballistic plates in the boardroom, downstairs reception area and in the upstairs planning office.

“It’s a fairly complicated set of statues that we have in Tennessee that regulate when and where firearms can be carried,” Tom Hale, Town attorney, said. “Generally speaking, the statutes provide that it’s an offense, under the criminal code, to carry firearms.

“Then, there’s an exception to that. It provides a defense to anyone who is carrying a firearm with a properly issued permit from the state of Tennessee,” he added.

However, Hale said there are statutes that regulate when and in what kind of spaces people who have permits can or cannot carry firearms. One such statute allowed owners of public buildings the right to post a sign prohibiting firearms, but the state legislature changed that law July 1.

Hale said the amended statute states if owners of a public building want to prohibit people with permits from entering the building, they must provide a metal detector and a security or police officer at each entrance to the building.

He added the amendment could prove expensive.

“The idea is that people who are law-abiding citizens and left their guns outside could encounter somebody who is unlawfully carrying a gun,” Hale said.

He found an exception to the new amendment, which states if the building is one where judicial proceedings occur, regardless of whether the proceedings are in session, the Town does not have to comply with the amendment. The Town holds municipal court in Town Hall.

Even if the Town does away with the posts prohibiting guns in Town Hall, permit-carrying people still would not be allowed to bring guns into the building while judicial proceedings are taking place, he added.

Markli supported the amendment to allow legal permit-carrying residents to carry firearms and made a motion to prepare a resolution to remove the posts.

“It’s clear the state legislature recognizes the incontrovertible body of postings that these postings are totally ineffective. They have no positive impact whatsoever on the safety and well-being of people,” Markli said. “Criminals are always going to disregard them, law-abiding citizens will obey them and will, thus, put themselves in vulnerable situations.

“It’s offensive to me to see these postings,” he said.

“Here’s the rumple,” Alderman Louise Povlin said, asking, “what does the Town do during judicial proceedings if it removes the posts?”

She also brought up concerns about angry attendees of Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meetings.

Smoak said a bailiff is present during municipal court and Hale said the post could be posted temporarily during those proceedings.

Vice Mayor Ron Pinchok said he would like a deputy to be present during FMPC meetings.

“Regardless of what we do, Alderman Povlin has a point [about FMPC meetings],” Alderman Ron Williams said. He suggested installing ballistic plates under the Board members’ desk, at the reception desk and upstairs in the planning office.

At the same time, Williams said, “I would like things to stay as is until we look at it.”

Povlin suggested asking staff how it felt about allowing guns in the building. Smoak agreed.