Nashville Fair Board stands by gun show decision

No more gun shows allowed at Nashville fairgrounds

Gun shows at the Nashville fairgrounds have been a staple of the venue since the 1970s and draw large crowds. (Photo: Goodman’s Gun Shows)

Nashville’s fair board has decided to stand by a decision to end gun shows at the city-owned fairgrounds if organizers don’t agree to abide by new safety rules.

Although gun show operators will continue hosting their shows through the end of their contract period, if they don’t agree to new safety rules their contracts will not be renewed beyond 2016, The Tennessean reported.

The operator of the largest show — Bill Goodman’s Gun and Knife Show, which has been renting fair space for 35 years — says a lawsuit could be on the way if the city stops hosting gun shows.

The Metro Board of Fair Commissioners voted 3-0 in December, with one abstention, to halt gun shows if new safety rules are not implemented. Those rules have not been determined yet, though commissioners have kicked around the idea of requiring operators to post signs at entrances saying that guns must be sold with background checks.

The decision to stand by their previous action was made following testimony from the Safe Tennessee Project, who gave a presentation that included images of what they felt to be controversial materials for sale at the “family-friendly” gun show, as well as testimony from Assistant District Attorney Jenny Charles, who pointed to three cases where guns from the gun show were purchased by prohibited persons or used in a crime.

According to The Tennessean, these instances include one where guns were later smuggled to gangs in Australia, one in which a felon purchased an AR-15 and another where a prohibited person bought two rifles at a gun show.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s top attorney has said that no law requires the city to hold gun shows at its fairground facilities, and the only legal issues that would arise would come about if the board attempted to adopt regulations targeted at gun shows that violate what is protected for guns by state and federal law.

However, Goodman’s attorney has told the newspaper there will likely be a legal challenge. He said he disagreed with the city attorney’s legal opinion and argued they would be violating a number of laws if gun show were halted in 2017 — including issues of pre-emption, commercial free speech, Second Amendment rights and right-of-access.

John Harris, director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, has also argued the fair board’s action is in violation of Tennessee’s firearms preemption laws.

“This action by the Mayor Barry’s Nashville to deny lawfully operated gun shows from operating at otherwise publicly available facilities at the fairgrounds clearly is a move by the city to regulate the purchase, transfer, possession, sale, and acquisition of firearms by the public,” Harris told Guns.com in December.

The Nashville Fairgrounds were among a number of gun show sites where New York City’s then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent investigators six years ago to document illegal gun sales.

According to The Tennessean, the “highly disputed investigation” resulted in a report that cites two alleged instances at the Nashville Fairgrounds where dealers appeared to sell firearms to persons with “questionable backgrounds.” Additionally, the report contains information about four alleged instances where dealers appeared to sell to other persons to allow the potential buyers to avoid a background check.

However, Goodman has disputed that report. According to him, none of the dealers were found to have done anything wrong, and he objected to the undercover tactics and pointed out that full video footage of the sting operation was never shown by investigators.