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)
After hearing from a dozen local gun control advocates, the Nashville fair board on Tuesday voted unanimously to halt the traditional gun shows long held at the facility.
The Metro Board of Fair Commissioners voted 3-0 to refuse any new gun shows at their venue and is canceling shows already booked more than 30 days out.
The move was prompted by public testimony from members of the Safe Tennessee Project who displayed images of what they felt were controversial material including items with Confederate flags being sold at the last show while simultaneously attempting to link guns in the possession of felons to the gun shows held at the Nashville Fairgrounds, which is city property.
“I was appalled by some of the merchandise I saw being sold at the show – a show that is billed as being ‘family-friendly,’” said Safe Tennessee Project Policy Director Beth Joslin Roth. “Bumper stickers suggesting that to keep America Free, you should ‘shoot a liberal.’ Confederate flags and items emblazoned with the Confederate flag were everywhere. Everything from rebel flag hats, pocket knives, clocks, t-shirts, and firearm accessories were for sale. Possibly the most offensive was a t-shirt with a large Confederate flag and the words ‘Defending Freedom since 1861.’ Exactly whose freedom are they talking about? ”
Further, as reported by The Tennessean, the group had Assistant District Attorney Jenny Charles in tow, who cited three cases in which guns either bought at the show were used in crime or were purchased by prohibited possessors in private sales without background checks. This included one man who later smuggled guns to gangs in Australia, another of a convicted felon who purchased an AR-15, and a third of prohibited possessor who bought two rifles at a fairgrounds gun show.
“It begs the question, how many more are there?” Charles said. “We don’t know and we can’t know because there’s no paperwork required in Tennessee when a private seller sells a gun.”
Bill Goodman, who had held gun and knife shows at the venue since the 1970s, argued that all of his productions comply with state and federal laws.
“If somebody goes in and steals something at Walmart, Walmart didn’t do nothing wrong, the person did,” said Goodman. “Everything I’ve done is legal.”
State Second Amendment leaders argue the board is reacting to anecdotal evidence and may be violating state law.
“Unfortunately, Tennessee suffers from a chronic problem where some local government officials exercise the powers of their office to infringe the fundamental constitutionally protected rights of others simply because those officials deem certain otherwise lawful activities necessary of intentional infringement,” Tennessee Firearms Association Director John Harris told Guns.com Tuesday.
Harris, a prominent attorney in the area, explained state law already prohibits local governments from engaging in any form of regulation of firearms, to include sales.
“In the past, Tennessee’s Legislature has enacted legislation that removed authority and discretion from local government officials who misused such authority such as the relatively recent state laws that denied local governments any authority to regulate firearms possession in public parks,” said Harris. “Indeed, as a likely result of such abuses of local government officials, similar to this action by Mayor Barry’s Nashville, the Tennessee Legislature has seen fit to completely prohibit almost all local regulation of firearms related activities by local governments.”
Condemning the move, Harris termed it a clear violation of the state firearms preemption act.
“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 said.
Goodman, who is allowed to hold his scheduled gun show this weekend, said he plans to appeal the board’s decision on future shows.
Guns.com reached out to the Brady Campaign, who have traditionally opposed what they and other gun control advocates term the “gun show loophole,” but did not receive comment.