In the same week that Tennessee state Sen. Brian Kelsey asked the state attorney general for a ruling on whether Nashville's leaders can prohibit gun shows on public fairgrounds, the U.S. Supreme Court just left the door open to states to restrict guns.
And don't look now, but across the nation local leaders are showing a great deal more backbone to stand up to the Big Gun lobby of the National Rifle Association than our Congress has.
On Monday, a majority of members in the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Chicago suburb's law banning semiautomatic assault weapons and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
It was the 70th time since 2008 that the Supreme Court has declined to consider a lawsuit challenging a federal, state or local gun regulation, and many court experts think the pattern creates a big opportunity for Americans to put pressure on their state and local leaders.
This time, the case was in Illinois where, in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that left 26 children and teachers dead, the town of Highland Park, Ill., passed a 2013 ordinance banning categories of weapons and some specific guns by name, including the AR-15 and the AK-47.
The timing of this Supreme Court action — or perhaps studied inaction — seems especially poignant in light of the U.S. Senate Republicans' refusal to approve even uncontroversial measures like banning suspected terrorists on the FBI's no-fly list from legally purchasing guns, let alone approving universal background checks for gun sales. Nearly nine in 10 Americans say they favor universal background checks.
So giving states and cities constitutional authority and moral obligation to protect the public from the scourge of gun violence seems to be the next best thing — unless you live in Tennessee or Georgia, where most of our modest local controls already have been overridden with regularity in recent years by state lawmakers who either have NRA-stuffed war chests or who are afraid the NRA will field a candidate against them.
Some states are being bolder. On Thursday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he would sign an executive order barring people on federal terrorism watch lists from buying firearms in his state, making Connecticut the first state in the nation to have such a measure.
"Like all Americans, I have been horrified by the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris," said Malloy, a Democrat who narrowly won a second term in 2014. "This should be a wake-up call to all of us. This is a moment to seize in America — and today I'm here to say that we in Connecticut are seizing it."
But in Tennessee, we get Kelsey, a Republican from Germantown and the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, asking the Tennessee attorney general to tell the Nashville Metropolitan Fair Commissioners Board that its recent vote to ban gun shows at the city's publicly owned fairgrounds runs afoul of local, state and federal laws.
"The Metro Fair Board action is a thinly disguised effort to impose a liberal gun control agenda and deny citizens their Second Amendment rights," Kelsey said in a statement.
No, senator, not allowing a gun show at the fairgrounds does not deny anyone the right to have a gun. They just have to shop for one somewhere else.
It is sad that local officials — like those in Chattanooga, Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis — have to fight such foolishness.
Chattanooga officials, struggling to contain gang-related turf violence, had placed gun bans on some of our signature recreation spots like Coolidge Park. But in the spring of 2015, Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill that would allow people to carry guns in all public parks — think Coolidge Park, Redoubt Soccer Fields, Warner Park, the ball parks beside Signal Mountain City Hall, Harrison Bay State Park. And they repealed a provision in a 2009 state law that gave local councils and commissions a local option.
Democrat Sen. Jeff Yarbro, in an effort to derail the guns-in-parks bill, added an amendment that would make it legal to carry a gun on the grounds of the state Capitol.
Whoa! The House, which already had passed the bill without the Capitol inclusion, took a whopping 45 seconds to reject the guns-in-the-Capitol amendment, according to the Nashville Post. Suffice it to say that while our Tennessee lawmakers are happy to take the NRA's money, they don't really believe the NRA propaganda that guns everywhere spell more safety.
In 2008, the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller opened these floodgates by deciding for the first time that the Second Amendment grants individuals the right to keep handguns in their homes for self-defense.
Since then, states and cities have passed hundreds of gun-safety laws, and those new laws, as well as older gun laws, have faced more than a thousand challenges under the Second Amendment, according to The New York Times. So far, lower federal courts have upheld the laws 93 percent of the time.
This time, at least, the Supreme Court held firm — giving hope for sensible local control.