A Tennessee Lawmaker Tried To Sell A Semi-Automatic Rifle At His Lemonade Stand To Make A Point

He had a lesson in mind with the peculiar set up.

Tennessee House Democratic Caucus leader Mike Stewart stood behind an eclectic lemonade stand last week in Nashville: it contained lemonade, cookies, and a $700 rifle described on his sign as an AK-47. (The Tennessean notes that the rifle was a lookalike semi-automatic.)

The state lawmaker, of course, was not actually planning to sell the rifle. Instead, he was hoping to make a point about how easy Tennessee's laws make it to sell a gun to someone without a proper background check. As reported by NPR, recent studies have demonstrated that background checks and gun permits are associated with steep declines in gun homicides.

"I'm trying to make people aware that in Tennessee we don't have background check requirements so for a private gun sale, which is any sale that occurs outside a gun store, you can buy a weapon in a parking lot for cash, no ID, no background check, no nothing," Stewart told WKRN Jerry Barlar in a Facebook live. "You shouldn't be able to buy an AK-47 as easily as you can buy a glass of lemonade in Tennessee."

Rep. Stewart set up the stand to promote bill HB1319, which would have restricted sales of firearms to a federally licensed dealer that required a background check. 

"We're making the point that you can sell and AK-47, military style weapon with multiple magazines capable of killing people with no more a background check you have to undergo to buy a glass of lemonade," Stewart explained to The Tennessean.

That same day, Stewart's bill failed to pass the House subcommittee when his Republican colleagues voted it down.

Still, Stewart persisted. He told reporters that several polls indicate that the majority of Tennessee citizens favor background checks, and he pledged that one day his bill would pass. 

While Stewart's stunt had some flaws — Facebook commenters showed lots of skepticism about the legality of what he was doing — Stewart insisted that his bill was only intended to make sure the people who were buying weapons in Tennessee were law-abiding citizens.

"It's just so stupid we don't have background checks," Stewart said. "It's just dumb, pretty much everybody agrees if you're a criminal, if you have a violent record, you shouldn't have a gun."

In light of the San Bernardino elementary school shooting yesterday, which killed an 8-year-old and his special education teacher, Stewart's stand feels especially relevant. According to Slate, the gunman, like many mass shooters, would not have passed a background check.

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