I am getting lots of questions today about the Fairgrounds board decision this week about gun shows. Also, I understand that Councilman Glover filed a resolution today for consideration on December 15 on this topic. I wanted to share some thoughts quickly before the weekend, and solicit opinions from the public. (A few people have told me that it is really dumb to talk about this subject at all because I’ll make a lot of people mad no matter what I say. But, when I campaigned, I promised to have opinions about the important issues of the day…so I am trying to live up to that promise.)
First, I still haven’t seen anything in writing from Metro or the Fairgrounds board about what the board actually decided. I have seen media accounts, and I have heard from a few others that were present. The wording of each version is somewhat different. So I don’t know exactly what was decided. For this reason, there is no way for me to have a set-in-stone opinion about any of this right now.
More to the point, I would like to know whether the Fairground board is seeking to prohibit legal or illegal activity with this decision. From what I have heard so far, I suspect that they were intending to make a policy decision that, although a gun show is a completely legal activity, the Fairgrounds board decided that it no longer wants to allow that lawful activity to use the Fairgrounds.
If my suspicion is wrong, and the board is really trying to curb some illegal activity, then the obvious question is whether there might be some less restrictive way to eliminate the illegal acts. Or maybe the board has some specific public safety concern that they think needs to be addressed before there can be more gun shows. But based on what I have been able to learn so far, I don’t know the answer to these questions either.
If my suspicion is correct and this is a policy decision to deny use of the Fairgrounds for an activity that is allowed by law, I think that might be a problem. I want to be clear that I think gun violence in America is horrible beyond belief and that I would be in favor of greater federal restrictions to limit the ability of criminals to have access to dangerous weapons. But even for the strongest gun control advocates, trying to ban a legal gun show from the Fairgrounds seems like it would be hard to do. The best argument that I could imagine is if the shows simply aren’t profitable for the Fairgrounds and therefore it would be better to rent to some other type of use. Here too, I haven’t heard any information about the relative profitability of different uses.
I would like to see exactly what the board decided this week. I would like to know whether the board’s goal was to eliminate legal or illegal activities. I would like to know if the Fairgrounds makes money on these shows. I will reserve judgment until I can get this additional information. But, if this turns out to be a policy decision to eliminate a legal activity that helps finance the Fairgrounds, I think it will be hard to enforce. The better path for the board in this situation would be to look for alternative vendors that are more profitable. And, if they can’t find alternative legal uses that earn more dollars, I am not sure how the government can turn down a vendor conducting a legally allowed business (no matter how much the board might wish that the business weren’t legally allowed).
Thoughts? Email me at email@example.com
Bob Mendes represents all of Nashville as a Council-At-Large member of Nashville’s Metro Council. He is Chair of the Council’s Charter Revision Committee, a member of the Metropolitan Audit Committee, and a member of the Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, Rules & Confirmations Committee, and Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee. Bob also practices business law at Waypoint Law PLLC. Bob’s complete bio is here. You can follow Bob @mendesbob.