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Insane Law Sends Tennessee Man to Jail for NOT Firing His Weapon On School Property

A Fairview man might be a free man today had he fired a gun at his attacker instead of simply displaying it during a dispute with a parent after a youth basketball game.

In sentencing Tracy C. Clark on Thursday to 20 days in jail for handling a gun on school property, Williamson County Circuit Court Judge James G. Martin III said under state law regulating weapons on school property, Clark might have avoided a conviction if he had actually pointed the gun or used it because that would have demonstrated self-defense.

Clark, 37, told Martin that he'd gotten into a verbal altercation at Westwood Elementary School on Jan. 30, 2006, after his 9-year-old son's basketball game. Clark said the father of rival player came to his truck and held a knife as if threatening to stab him.

Clark, who had a handgun carry permit, said he told the man he had a gun and pulled a 9 mm handgun from the center console of his pickup truck and put it on the driver's seat. The gun was not loaded and never left its holster, according to Clark.

"I never brandished it," Clark said. "I never showed it. I did not know what the best thing to do was."

The law states that it is legal for an adult to bring a weapon to a school campus as long as it is kept in a vehicle and not handled. Martin said Clark admittedly handled the gun.

"There's no question he was in a situation where a man pulled a knife on him," Martin said. "It's an extremely unusual statute. While it's illegal to possess a firearm (on school grounds) it's OK if you use it to defend yourself."

Martin said he hopes his sentence sends a message that "if you carry a firearm on school property you are going to spend some time in jail."

In 2006, Circuit Court Judge Timothy Easter dismissed the charge against Clark, ruling he acted in self-defense. Last year, the state's Court of Appeals ruled that Easter erred in dismissing the charge and remanded the case for reinstatement of the indictment.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Vernon said he'd originally offered Clark the chance to plead guilty and serve one year of probation.

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