NASHVILLE — The ultimate impact in Tennessee of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which raised serious doubts about the constitutionality of a Chicago handgun ban, is “a little hard to predict,” said the head of a state gun-rights advocacy group who nonetheless expects it will trigger further litigation and could have a potentially “great” effect on the state’s handgun-carry laws.
Tennessee Firearms Association President John Harris said while justices in their 5-4 decision found the Second Amendment would apply to states “by virtue of the due process clause under the 14th Amendment, they haven’t really said as to any particular aspect of that what it means” and instead referred the Chicago handgun-ban case back to the trial court for adjudication.
Tennessee and its municipalities have no bans on handguns. The political battle in the Volunteer State has been over extension of where the state’s 270,000-plus handgun-carry permit holders to bring their weapons into public places.
“I see a great potential for it (ruling)” on the state’s handgun-carry laws, said Mr. Harris, an attorney, who noted that by ruling that the Second Amendment right to possess guns was a “fundamental right,” the Supreme Court raised the standard under which gun restrictions will be scrutinized.
“It becomes a question of what’s reasonable and that’s the question that the case doesn’t answer,” Mr. Harris said. If the ability to go armed is part of the right to self defense, Mr. Harris said, “it’s not an effective deterrent if you come home and your gun is limited to staying the confines of the building and the bad guy’s hiding in the bush’s outside.”
He said one area in Tennessee that could be challenged as a result of the ruling is a state law that last year allowed cities and counties to adopt ordinances banning permit holders from going owned in some or all local parks.
Guns are also banned at schools and on public college campuses as well as banned in most government buildings in Tennessee. Permit holders can go armed in state parks and most public places, including bars, provided owners do not post signs banning them.
In Georgia, the Atlanta Journal Constitution quoted John Monroe, an attorney with the gun-rights group GeorgiaCarry.org, predicting “there are going to be more Supreme Court cases. All they’ve done is establish what the Second Amendment means, generally. They haven’t begun to develop all of the contours of it. This Second Amendment litigation is in its infancy. … We don’t know what kinds of places that states and local governments can prevent carry.”
But Coalition to Stop Gun Violence communications director Ladd Everitt, took issue with predictions the Supreme Court ruling will greatly impact areas where permit holders can go armed.
“The answer is it has no effect on it whatsoever,” Mr. Everitt said. “One of the remarkable things about (Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s) decision was it was very restrained and conservative in approach. The only issue that Alito addresses in the McDonald decision is the right of an individual to own a handgun inside the home for self defense. And that’s it.”
In writing for the majority, Justice Alito said the right to keep and bear arms “is ‘not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.’”
He noted that in a previous case overturning a District of Columbia ban on handguns, “we made it clear” the ruling “did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures” as prohibiting possession of firearms by felons and carrying firearms in “sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...