ELIZABETHTON — After rejecting a resolution last month proposed by Mayor Leon Humphrey calling on the state to nullify any new federal gun control laws, the Carter County Commission reversed course this month and overwhelmingly approved the measure.
Humphrey had warned in his resolution that the president and certain members of Congress were considering taking actions that would infringe on the rights of citizens to bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. During the February session, the Commission voted in favor of the resolution 12-8, but that was one vote short of the 13 needed for passage.
The reasons given for the commission’s lack of support in February came from two directions. Commissioner Steve Lowrance said he was a strong supporter of gun rights, but he felt Humphrey was merely using the issue for political gain. Commissioner Pat Hicks said states had no rights to nullify acts of Congress.
In Monday’s voting, the resolution was approved by 16 votes, with only Hicks and Tom Bowers voting “no.” Ken Arney and Sharon Culler passed.
The resolution was not on the agenda for Monday’s meeting. Humphrey proposed the ordinance be reconsidered. He said he has been watching the debates in the Senate Judiciary Committee on C-Span and was concerned by the attitudes expressed by some legislators. He said gun control is obviously not working, or else Chicago and Washington, D.C., which have the strongest gun control laws in the nation, would be the safest cities instead of the most dangerous.
“Guns don’t kill, people kill,” Humphrey said. “The true focus needs to be on identifying mentally ill people.”
“I cannot comprehend why you would not pass this token resolution,” Humphrey said.
Because the mayor had not included the resolution in the commissioners’ reading packet, Commission Chairman Bowers at first said he would not allow a vote on Humphrey’s resolution, asking the mayor if it was such an important matter, why did he not place it in the packet? Humphrey said it was not a new item. Bowers did agree to allow a vote on the resolution.
In other matters during Humphrey’s comments to the County Commission, he said all documents in the commissioners’ reading packet would now be included on the www.cartercountytn.gov website to help ensure transparency of government.
Humphrey also proclaimed April as “Confederate Heritage and History Month” in the county. He called forward Bill Hicks of the Robert T. Tipton Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to receive a framed copy of the proclamation.
One other outstanding issue was resolved on Monday. The commission approved the payment of $600 for a pauper burial. The commission had budgeted for only three pauper burials during the fiscal year and had already transferred funds from a little used line item for industrial recruitment to pay for this year’s overages. That money has also run out and the commission had balked at the latest expense.
The matter had been referred back to the Budget Committee, but the committee did not approve a recommendation to pay the bill during its meeting last month. Instead, it sent the bill back to the full commission without a recommendation. Harry Sisk, the chairman of the committee, made a motion on his own to pay the bill.
Bowers said some have felt the process was being abused and that some families who had the assets to pay for burial expenses had obtained pauper burial services.
Humphrey said he had checked with other counties and found that Washington County had 43 pauper burials this fiscal year, so Carter County with half the population of Washington County had only a quarter of the pauper burials. The commission voted to pay the bill with only Bowers and Arney voting against Sisk’s motion.
The commission is considering a move that would end annual payments to the Carter County Rescue Squad. In return for not receiving the annual contribution from the county, the squad would be able to charge the county for the services it provides in transporting prisoners of the Carter County Jail to the emergency room, transporting bodies, conducting search and rescues and other matters for which the squad does not now charge. The proposal would require the county to pay Medicare rates for the transports.
Some commissioners expressed concerns about the costs of search and rescues and other services that might take a lengthy time and several rescuers.