Large events in Jonesborough: Safe enough?

A sign in the window of a Jonesborough business depicts "Looney Tunes" charachter Yosemite Sam holding two revolvers with the photo's caption reading "If God didn't want us to have guns...He wouldn'ta given us trigger fingers. Photo: Jonathan Roberts/Johnson City Press

Jonesborough resident Tammy Moore tries not to think about the possibility of a mass shooting when she attends large gatherings or festivals, and feels that Jonesborough is “a safe community.”

Other residents, however, aren’t so confident.

During Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Monday night, two community members raised concerns about safety at large gatherings in the wake of two mass shootings that left 31 people dead in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month.

“We have the right to be free from the threat of being mowed down because someone likes to mow us down. As citizens we have that right.” Jonesborough resident Frances Lamberts told the Press after Monday’s meeting.

After Lamberts’ speech, Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said that there isn’t an event where they “don’t have that concern,” something Kiran Singh Sirah, president of the International Storytelling Center agreed with on Tuesday.

“We always treat the safety of our public as, 100%, our No. 1 priority,” he said. “I think we’re always concerned about safety.”

“What we’re seeing across the country is (mass shootings) can happen anywhere,” Singh Sirah continued. “It’s unfortunate, but we don’t want to stop organizing events that are important to what we do — it’s important for people to gather.”

One woman, who works at a downtown business and requested anonymity, said she felt people were more “cautious” when attending events downtown.

“I work here during events, and I’ve not heard people voice (concerns), but everything that’s been going on lately, I think people are scared,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to keep people down, but I think people just keep it in the back of their mind. They’re very cautious.”

Two other residents, Greg and Cindy Kype, said they don’t let the potential for violence keep them inside or away from crowds.

“You have to look at the odds and determine if you want to go and have fun or if you want to sit in your house,” Greg Kype said.

Both said at a large event like the National Storytelling Festival, something Lamberts said she was “especially” afraid of attending due to “hundreds of people sitting together” in tents, they’d feel safe.

Cindy Kype said she did feel that the local government has a role to play in protecting citizens from mass shooters, but was unsure how far or how big of a role that would be.

“At the very least it’s making sure first responders are coordinated and trained and know what to do, but as far as controlling access to guns, I don’t know, I’m not sure where I stand on that right now.”

Another resident offered a more despondent take on the issue.

“I kind of just tend to go where I want to go and just be aware,” said resident Kathy Jordan.

“I don’t think anybody can protect you, you just have to hope for the best and be aware of your surroundings.”

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