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TN Politics: Gun Laws, School Discipline, and Right to Work


Despite opposition from law enforcement agencies, Tennessee Republicans view the unfettered proliferation of guns in public spaces as a constitutional right. Recent laws have made it much easier for criminals and teenagers to obtain stolen guns, and because reducing access to weapons is not an option Republicans are willing to consider, they are now moving to increase the penalties for people caught with guns who don’t have a legal right to carry one, namely people who are underage or formerly convicted of a felony. Political analyst Otis Sanford says that it would simply have the effect of putting more Black and brown people in prison, as the previous laws, by their very nature, created the gun problem facing many Memphis communities.

This week, both the state Senate and House passed a bill that creates a process for removing chronically misbehaved students from classrooms. Teachers associations approved of the measure but Democrats said it could lead to consequences for minority students. Still, Sanford says he doesn't see the need for legislation on disciplinary policies that could be better handled on a district-by-district basis. 

Finally, Tennessee voters will likely get to decide whether the state’s right-to-work law becomes enshrined in the state constitution, making it far more difficult for future generations to repeal. While the state and its lawmakers have long been anti-union, Sanford says voters should be careful about which laws become virtually unchangeable as times and attitudes evolve.  

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher's favorite haunt is the intersection of history and cultural change. He is WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.