Shelby County, Tennessee Considering Ban On Gun Shows
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File

While county commissioners across Virginia are passing resolutions declaring their communities save havens for the Second Amendment, commissioners in Shelby County, Tennessee are going in the opposite direction and looking to ban gun shows from all county-owned property.

Believe it or not, if county commissioners in Memphis move forward with the ban, they won’t be the first in the state to do so. From WREG-TV:

The resolution points out thousands of crimes in Shelby County are committed with firearms and states that gun shows “are the antithesis of promoting public safety and community peace and harmony.”

Commissioner Tami Sawyer sponsored the resolution, saying Knoxville and Nashville have done this already in light of the proliferation of gun violence.

A representative from the Tennessee Firearms Association of Shelby County spoke at the committee meeting, and said his group would oppose the resolution.

Few of the weapons used in violent crimes were sold at gun shows, he said. Gun shows also generate money for the county, and buyers are required to undergo background checks, he said.

This looks like something you’d see in California, where state legislators and county officials alike have banned gun shows from taking place on county or state owned property. Yet if commissioners in Memphis move ahead, the three largest metropolitan areas in the pro-gun state of Tennessee will be off limits to gun shows, at least on county-owned property.

Unfortunately, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled a couple of years ago that municipalities have the authority to ban gun shows from their property, despite the state’s firearms preemption law that states no municipality or county government shall occupy any part of the field of firearms regulation, including the transfer or sale of firearms. The Tennessee Court of Appeals found that fairgrounds are “recreational properties”, and under an exemption in the state’s preemption law, counties and municipalities have the authority to ban gun shows from their property.

That means any court challenge to the proposed ban in Shelby County or in Knoxville would face some high legal hurdles. Unfortunately, too many local lawmakers in Tennessee’s biggest cities are far more interested in cracking down on legal gun owners than targeting violent criminals.

In fact, crime in Nashville has gone down since the city instituted its ban on gun shows, but I don’t think the ban had anything to do with it. Instead, increased federal prosecutions for gun-related crimes may be the primary driver in the reduction in violence. As WKRN in Nashville reported back in September:

Prosecutors remain aggressive as felon in possession charges are on the rise. In the first year [U.S. Attorney Don] Cochran took over, prosecutions doubled– from 90 federal offenders charged to 180 federal offenders charged.

This year, Cochran’s office is on track to exceed 200 defendants charged with federal firearms violations. ​

“We like to charge the people who have displayed a real potential for violence and we do that by looking at their past record,” said Cochran.

Many of these charges are made possible by Metro police’s seven-member Crime Gun Unit, which uses national ballistic science to analyze shell casings from weapons fired in local crimes and then connect those casings to other crimes in the area.

In other words, better cooperation between local police and federal prosecutors and targeting the most violent offenders is what’s paying off, not the inability to go to a gun show in Nashville. If public safety was really the primary concern of Shelby County commissioners, they wouldn’t be wasting their time on a gun show ban. Instead, they’d be doing everything they could to empower that cooperation between Memphis Police and the U.S. Attorney’s office. Unfortunately the county commissioners seem much more intent on stopping legal gun sales than gang violence.