MEMPHIS, Tenn. — From Harbor Town to Biscayne Road and near Perkins and I-240, there’s an outcry for city leaders to do something after another weekend of gun violence in Memphis, and city leaders say they will tackle gun control even if it goes against state law.
“We have a problem with violence, and everyone knows that but it’s all connected with guns, and I believe it’s so important we get gun control in our city,” said Councilwoman Patrice Robinson.
Tuesday, the Memphis City Council will begin considering whether to approve two gun control ballot referendums. They would allow Memphians to vote on whether handguns should be outlawed in the city limits without permits and whether the sale of assault rifles should be banned in Memphis, but they would also conflict with state law.
“I don’t normally agree with setting aside separate rules and regulations and ordinances for separate counties, but in this case, we’re having a problem in Memphis, Tennessee, and Shelby County, and we’ve got to get these guns out of the wrong hands,” said Robinson.
“This is your right to keep and bear arms and I’m concerned this is the slippery slope towards banning all handguns and we see that this clearly doesn’t work,” said Councilman Frank Colvett.
State law says laws passed by local governments regarding firearms are preempted by state law.
“Our charter tells us that we’re responsible for the health, welfare, and the safety of our citizens, and if we’re not being protected by our state then we have to step up and do what we need to do,” said Councilman Jeff Warren.
Governor Bill Lee has called a special session on potential gun-reform laws for August 21, but Memphis lawmakers say the time to take action is now.
“I look forward to the conversation on public feedback requiring a permit to carry. I think this would be a very good conversation in terms, but let’s remember most crimes are committed with illegal handguns,” said Colvett.
“We’re not trying to take away anyone’s right to bear arms. We’re trying to make sure that the people who don’t need the guns in their hands don’t have the opportunity,” said Robinson.
If approved by city council members, the ordinance questions would be placed on the ballot for a referendum vote on August 1 next year.