Tennessee might seem like an odd place for Second Amendment sanctuary counties to start popping up, but these Eastern Tennessee folks have some good reasons for declaring their insistence on gun rights... and they want the state government to listen.
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and in the shadow of bigger regional cities like Knoxville and Chattanooga, sleepy counties far from the oppression of Colorado or Illinois authoritarian leftists might seem like their cause isn't urgent or even terribly important. Their state government is largely on their side and the newspaper pages of the area aren't filled with the latest stories of innocent gun owners arrested for accidentally carrying a firearm into a gun-free zone.
Yet citizens of East Tennessee towns aren't completely inoculated from the anti-gun frenzy sweeping parts of the rest of the country, either. They've seen it here too, on town storefronts where a new "No Guns" sign might appear where it wasn't the week before, or students protesting on college campuses in an attempt to ban all firearms.
Comments from some at the county level in Tennessee have stated their belief that the resolutions were coming largely in part due to the threat of House Bill 1049, a red flag law (now tabled for the time being).
Back on April 18th, the county became the first local government in Tennessee to declare itself a gun sanctuary by an 8-1 vote by the Polk County Commission on a resolution submitted by County Commissioner Jeremy Kimsey.
Polk County Sheriff Steve Ross made comments to reporters the next day:
"The vast majority of America feels that we have a second amendment right to bear arms, and we have a right to protect our family and our homes. We don't feel the government has a right to come in and take guns from law abiding people that have done nothing wrong.
It's a statement that we firmly believe in the Constitution of the United States, that is, the heart of our nation is our Constitution."
On Thursday, May 16th, the Blount County Board of Commissioners passed Resolution 19-04-012, entitled "Declaring Support of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution."
The final vote was 15 to 4, with one board member not voting.
Blount County Commissioner and bill sponsor Nick Bright made a statement at the time, saying,
"It basically would do nothing physically, it's more symbolic at best and to send a message to the state that we don't want that in our county or in our state".
The bill's first co-sponsor, Blount County ninth district commissioner Steve Mikels, added his own thoughts:
"Most county government does not really have teeth to make law or take law away.
I'm concerned that our government at the federal and state level is taking more rights away than they're helping the citizens, and that's not the goal of government to begin with. Government is supposed to protect the rights of citizens and the constitution, and that's the message we're trying to send to Nashville and to Washington."
On Tuesday, May 28th, a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution was passed by Monroe County Commissioners unanimously. The board exclusively singled out the Tennessee House Bill 1049, the aforementioned red flag law.
Monroe County Resolution 0528-8 reads:
“Therefore, Monroe County, Tennessee government will not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers, or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of such acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulation that infringe on the right by the people to keep and bear arms as described and defined in detail above…[and be] officially declared a Second Amendment Sanctuary."
After the vote, County Commissioner Chad Leming made the following statement:
“I am so thankful to be a part of a county that is proactive in protecting our Second Amendment right. This amendment allows us to protect ourselves, our families and our homes.”
On Monday, June 3rd, Loudon County's Commissioners met and on their agenda was a vote on whether to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. The resolution passed, although GRW was so far unable to find vote totals or detailed meeting minutes.
Loudon County Mayor Rollen Bradshaw was asked about the vote and he lamented,
“I wish that we had thought of it before anybody. I’d love to lead the charge for this, but being able to follow Polk and Blount, being the third in the state to do it, I think that sets an example. I think that people look at Loudon County and they see the success we’re having and they see the success we'e doing it the right way, the way it was intended to be done. ...We do things by law and we follow our Constitution and I think that that just speaks volumes about how we do things. I don't think other counties should be afraid to endorse it and embrace it.”
The resolution was expected to pass the board by a wide margin.
Commissioner Clifford Bryant sponsored the original resolution in May along with co-sponsors Jason Cobble and Josh Arrowood. Numerous concerned citizens in the county voiced their concerns about the red flag bill, causing them to take action.
Bryant's comments about the move stated,
"We will not stand for trampling our rights further than they've already been. We are trying to create a safe haven to protect law-abiding citizens from the tyranny of an overreaching government."
On Monday, July 15th, Greene County Commissioners held their vote on two different resolutions where over 30 people signed up to speak. The county commissioners were presented with the first resolution which used the sanctuary language and voted 6 to 11 against it, with Commissioner Bill Dabbs abstaining and three other commissioners absent from the vote. That resolution would have blocked the county from using resources to confiscate and store firearms taken from the county's citizens.
The second resolution, which differed mainly in that it removed the sanctuary language but kept all the protections in place, passed with a 12 to 5 vote by the commission. It was also sponsored by Commissioner Bryant.
Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison explained the difference between the two resolutions as,
“There was actually Resolution A declaring Greene County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County, and then there was Resolution B which offered essentially the same thing, support for the Second Amendment and peoples right to keep and bear arms without the language of open defiance of the law of the land. I think that what the people were asking essentially was that they want our local representatives to support the Second Amendment for gun ownership rights, and not have the due process be taken away.”
Greene County Sheriff Wesley Holt commented afterward that if the Federal Government ever came in to confiscate guns that he wouldn’t ask his officers to enforce that and he wouldn’t enforce it, either. He added that he fully supports the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.
Also on Monday, June 17th, Carter County planned to hold its vote to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. Commissioner Mike Hill introduced the resolution Thursday at a subcommittee meeting, where it passed that panel unanimously. The measure was requested by a constituent who had asked Commissioner Hill to do the same in their county.
He later remarked to a local news outlet,
"Any time someone seeks to erode our rights, even if we choose not to exercise them we should make sure we retain them. It has nothing to do with any of these [recent] unfortunate events; it's simply taking part in the nationwide movement supporting the fundamental right to legally own [a firearm]. It's a shame, but we always talk about gun control when one of these things happens."
GRW is awaiting word on whether such a resolution passed.