Belle Meade revisits handgun carry laws

Friday, August 27, 2010 at 2:34am

A Belle Meade gun law, which the mayor called inappropriate and discriminatory, could soon be updated.

The city’s board of commissioners is floating two proposed ordinances looking to either amend or delete a section of code that prohibits anyone to carry a dangerous weapon “with the intent to go armed” except for an “Army or Navy pistol which shall be carried openly in the hand.”

It’s the second phrase in particular that the board stated harkened back to the Reconstruction Era.

In a March 25 message to residents posted on the city’s website, the board stated the ordinance’s language appeared to be intended to restrict free blacks from owning handguns after the Civil War because mostly white men owned Army and Navy pistols.

That law on the city’s books remained largely unnoticed until Leonard Embody, known as the Radnor Lake Rambo for taking an AK-47 pistol on a walk through Radnor Lake State Park, decided to take a Navy model 1851 black powder on a walk down Belle Meade Boulevard.

Authorities stopped Embody, of Brentwood, in both cases and the incidents made headlines.

That prompted Belle Meade commissioners to look into the law and propose an ordinance that would amend the law, removing the phrase “except the Army or Navy pistol which shall be carried openly in the hand.”

That proposed ordinance passed on first reading Feb. 17 but has been deferred ever since.

After the board introduced the first proposed ordinance, rumors spread that the city would ban the public from carrying handguns, prompting the March website posting by the commissioners.

But as Mayor Gray Thornburg told The City Paper, the city just looked to remove the antiquated law from its books and anyone with a state issued handgun carry permit can carry in Belle Meade.

“The long and short of it is,” Thornburg said, “we realized that we had an ordinance that a) was not appropriate and b) more importantly was very discriminatory, and so we needed to make a change.”

Then in light of the June 28 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Chicago handgun ban, and in talking with the Belle Meade police department, commissioners decided the city might not need the old ordinance at all anyway.

Last week, the Belle Meade board of commissioners passed on first reading an ordinance that would delete the entire section of city code (Title 11-602.)

So it appears either the section of the original ordinance that allows open carry of just a specific type of gun — Army or Navy pistol — would be deleted or the whole section referring to carrying a gun in the open would be deleted because Belle Meade police would enforce the state law anyway.

The thought is, said the mayor, that with the Supreme Court ruling, Belle Meade doesn’t need its own law.

With the two ordinances passed on first reading and one sitting in deferral limbo, Belle Meade commissioners are giving themselves options to “clean up” the gun carry ordinance.

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Thornburg said. “Clean up what’s not in good shape.”

18 Comments on this post:

By: yogiman on 8/27/10 at 6:17

Why has this law been on the books for so long, anyway? Discrimination, perhaps? Yes, it is past time to correct it.

Just go by the 2nd amendment.

By: xhexx on 8/27/10 at 6:33

While I don't applaud his methods, it appears this is a win for Leonard. Just think, Belle Meade, dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/27/10 at 7:30

Free states, where citizens are trusted

Vermont, Arizona, Alaska, Belle Meade

By: Kosh III on 8/27/10 at 8:27

Is being armed the only criterion for freedom?
But I'll agree, places like Tennessee, which are dominated by conservatives are not safe or free places for anyone but gun-toting heterosexual male WASPS.

By: dartow on 8/27/10 at 8:31

There you have it folks, another political win to let only criminals carry weapons in BM. As for the Radnor Lake Rambo ... he's just another nut that went to far in his direction. As we have seen too many times we cannot reley on Law Enforcement alone to protect us. They do a great job but the odds are against them.
That said, if we continue to make it illegal for the good citizins of this state to carry a weapon, the only people left with weapons is the bad guys. Think about that for a minute!!!

By: yogiman on 8/27/10 at 8:41

Question: Can anyone name one law abiding citizen who pulled a gun on anyone other than in a situation of self defense? I didn't think so.

By: wwhowell on 8/27/10 at 8:52

Well, yogiman, what you present is a tautology. Anyone who pulled a gun on another that was not in self-defense would not be law-abiding.

By: Kosh III on 8/27/10 at 9:06

Didn't a HCP pull a gun on an umpire at a childrens ball game?

By: warrk21 on 8/27/10 at 9:32

See the new gun Law at : departedngone it will help with your Law

By: Cookie47 on 8/27/10 at 11:14


Please see the link below to answer your question but I agree with wwhowell. Once this woman started waving her gun, the law-abiding part went out the window.

Road rage? Powell woman accused of aiming gun at off-duty police lieutenant

As for Belle Meade's law change, the present city commission probably had no idea it was on the books until Embody pulled his little stunt. Once they found out, they took steps to fix the situation. They did the right thing after consulting with police and are now working toward going by the present state law. Unfortunately, this will add some validity to Embody's stunt. Hopefully not. I say this as a HCP holder.


By: GUARDIAN on 8/27/10 at 11:17

Reconstruction-era law aimed at blacks? James Nix are you kidding or just playing the race card and being a reverse racist. Anyone with a Handgun Permit should have the right to carry in the park. Now you anti-gun liberal socialist progressives can start your crying and beating your keyboards. The fat lady is singing and you will hate this song like nothing you have heard. If you want to live in socialism move to Canada or swim to Cuba you time is almost up.

By: Tull on 8/27/10 at 11:23

"Is being armed the only criterion for freedom"
No but it is the most important.
A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.
An unfree state would not allow the people to be armed.

By: Cookie47 on 8/27/10 at 11:31


Below is a link to the story you may be referring to.

Gun permit suspended after incident at ball game

I coached baseball for 15 years and saw several situations that could have escalated as this one did. That's why I don't have a problem with guns being banned from city parks where there's ball fields. However, I don't see a problem with HCP holders carrying in city parks such as Percy Warner or the green ways around town.


By: yogiman on 8/27/10 at 5:01

howell, you and cookie didn't seem to read my question correctly. I said pull a gun in self defense. If a gun is pulled on someone for any reason that isn't self defense then it isn't legal, is it?

By: cval on 8/27/10 at 11:30

First of all, Mr. Nix, please get your facts straight. You said the "Rambo" guy carried an AK-47 pistol at the lake. AN AK-47 is a rifle. Originally made in the USSR, it is now probably the most widely used rifle in the world. Amazing you screwed that up. Second, it sounds like Embody is bringing attention to antiquated gun laws by "obeying" those laws. Funny how the authorities (I assume you mean police) arrested the guy for obeying the law. Second, it doesn't seem to me that there is any racial bigotry in keeping the old law on the books for so long since the idea of "whites" carrying army or navy pistols is also antiquated. No, the reason it has been on the books so long is that Belle Meades' Board of Commissioners have been too lazy to study their laws and perhaps too anxious to hit the golf course. Finally, we don't need the mayor of Bell Meade to tell us it is okay to carry a gun with a carry permit. We know that. For Bell Meade to say otherwise is unconstitutional and illegal.

By: Cookie47 on 8/30/10 at 3:22


If YOU will go back and read my comment you'll read that it states that when the gun is waved the law-abiding part goes out the window.

cval, try Googling AK-47 pistol. You'll find your facts aren't right. There is an AK-47 pistol.


By: MK-Ultra on 8/30/10 at 6:19

It's his right for him to carry his gun and our right to have an opinion about it .

You are making a mountain out of a mole hill on this .

Get a life !

By: kwikrnu on 10/10/10 at 7:28

On September 15, 2010 the Belle Meade Board of Commissioners passed ordinance 2010-7 on second reading. It went into effect October 1, 2010. What the ordinance does is delete city ordinance 11-602, the weapons ordinance. Belle Meade no longer regulates the possession of weapons.