Washington County asked to affirm gun rights

Robert Houk • Jan 10, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Washington County commissioners are being asked to join other county governments in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia in passing a Second Amendment resolution to affirm and protect the constitutional right to own a gun.

The county’s Public Safety Committee approved its version of one such resolution at its meeting on Thursday.

The issue was brought up by Commissioner Kent Harris, who is a retired Unicoi County sheriff, at December’s regular commission meeting.

“As a former sheriff I know how important it is for homeowners to have a right to defend themselves,” Harris said.

He told his colleagues Thursday he “likes the resolution,” and it “incorporates some of the things I have seen approved in other counties.”

Sullivan and Unicoi counties are among the commissions in Tennessee that have already approved versions of so-called “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions. A number of boards of county supervisors in Southwest Virginia have passed similar measures.

The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement began in Virginia late last year after Democrats — many promising stricter gun control laws — took over both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly in the Nov. 5 election. The Associated Press has reported similar measures have taken hold in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois and New Mexico. 

Commissioner Freddie Malone said he was aware of efforts by members of Congress to infringe on Second Amendment rights, but told his fellow committee members he wasn’t aware of such efforts making headway in the Tennessee General Assembly.

“I know we are not in Virginia, but we are close enough and it could happen here,” Harris said.

Commissioner Jim Wheeler, the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said Tennessee General Assembly has  “a very different makeup than Virginia.”

Several residents of Washington County spoke in favor of the Second Amendment resolution, including Warren Lake, who referred to himself as a recent “refugee from occupied California.” He said “just one little change” to the Second Amendment could have a profound impact on gun rights.

“Things start with little steps,” he said.

The Washington County resolution reads: “Whereas, legislation infringing upon the constitutional rights of Washington County citizens has been, and may continue to be, proposed in the United States Congress and the Tennessee General Assembly; and whereas, after much consideration and deliberation, this legislative body has determined that it is in the best interest of Washington County to publicly proclaim its support of a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, and request that the duly elected representatives of federal and state government continue to adhere to their respective promissory duties to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

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