Recommended by the Commission’s Public Safety Committee and committee’s chairman, Todd Wilcox, who is an Erwin police officer, the resolution states the county will not expend funds for the enforcement of any gun control laws that violate the U.S. Constitution.
While numerous county residents addressed the commission in support of the resolution, the few who opposed it noted Second Amendment sanctuaries in Tennessee are limited to the enforcement of two “red flag laws” that allow the temporary removal of guns from people who present a threat to themselves or others.
Unicoi resident Rebecca Cummings said refusal to enforce those laws was setting the county up for a lawsuit. Numerous others spoke in favor of the sanctuary motion.
Wilcox said he understood the concern for mental health-related gun violence but pointed to FBI data that shows only 3% to 4% of gun violence is related to mental health.
“I understand. As a police officer, I’ve seen it myself, battered women, people with mental health (issues). Your family or someone in your household can go before a judge to remove firearms. I worry about the abuse of it, in divorce, or someone who wants to harass.”
In a prior discussion of the resolution, Wilcox said Tennessee has red flag laws and more are on coming. On Thursday, he said he has also worked in law enforcement in Virginia where red flag laws are more prevalent and can be obtained through a citizen complaint of a threat or harassment.
Wilcox said his fear is that such laws will be abused by people who lie. “That’s why I worry about abuse all the way around,” he said. “I believe you are going to harm to more law-abiding citizens than will be helped.
“This doesn’t mean we’re going to let people who cannot get (carry permits) come here and we will protect them. That’s not what this is. This is a two-way street. If you want help we’ll get you help. We will come and we will deal with the person.
Wilcox also said the county sheriff and Erwin police chief are in favor of the resolution “because they know it is us who will have to carry this out.”
Finally, he said, Sevier, Sullivan, Carter and other area counties have also approved or are working to approve similar resolutions.
In other business, the commission voted to establish a public corporation to administer the county’s new locally-controlled ambulance service and to work toward the negotiation of an inter-local agreement that will include the towns of Unicoi and Erwin on the corporation’s independent governing board.
Last week, the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the inter-local proposal “in concept” but delayed a binding vote until the county determines the town of Unicoi’s interest in the proposal.
On Monday, the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen appointed a committee to study the proposal and agreed to give the county its decision as quickly as possible.