Sullivan declared 'sanctuary county' against 'red flag laws'

J. H. Osborne • Nov 24, 2019 at 8:25 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission voted three days ago to declare the county a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.” No discussion by the full commission preceded the vote. And no one spoke on the issue during public comment.

Commissioners Hunter Locke and Gary Stidham led the effort “declaring support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

At a work session a week prior, no one objected to placing the resolution on the commission’s consent agenda for the business meeting this past Thursday. Items on the consent agenda are not voted on individually, and for the consent agenda to gain approval, the vote on it must be unanimous. Typically, if someone has doubts, they’ll vote for a resolution, and they voice discontent when a sponsor seeks to have it placed there.

Locke said they brought the issue forward to send a message to state lawmakers that Sullivan County is opposed to “extreme risk protection orders,” also known as “red flag laws.”

Locke and Stidham’s resolution notes the Tennessee General Assembly, during its 2019 session, considered and referred to committees for further study a proposed state law that would authorize extreme risk protection orders. It goes on to explain an extreme risk protection order “means an order, in writing, signed by the court, prohibiting and enjoining a named person from having the person’s custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing or receiving, any firearm or ammunition.”

The resolution has multiple co-sponsors and has been endorsed by the commission’s executive and administrative committees.

It cites several points of case law and Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution: “That the citizens of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defenses; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.”

The resolution ultimately calls for the Sullivan County Commission to declare the county to be a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County,” meaning that it will “provide safe haven and protect the United States Constitution and the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Sullivan County citizens from infringement.”

Locke said similar resolutions have been distributed to other local governing bodies across the state.

The Safe Tennessee Project, a gun violence prevention organization that states on its website it respects the Second Amendment and does not support the confiscation of guns, supports “red flag laws” as part of its state mission to address “the epidemic of gun related injuries and gun violence in Tennessee. We see it as a public health concern, not a political issue. We are non-partisan and welcome members from all backgrounds.”

The organization states “red flag laws” or extreme risk protection orders allow immediate family members and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from the possession of a person believed to be an imminent risk to themselves or others.