ROGERSVILLE – The Hawkins County Commission meeting room was filled beyond capacity Monday evening, with people packed into nearly every square inch of audience space and spilling into the hallway as commissioners unanimously approved their Second Amendment sanctuary county resolution.
The resolution is mostly symbolic and expresses the county commission’s opposition to “red flag” laws such as the one approved in the Virginia Senate last week.
Virginia's red flag law, which prompted a massive protest in Richmond last week, would give the state the authority to seize guns from a person if a judge signs an “extreme risk protection order” stating a person poses an “immediate and present danger” of causing personal injury to another person or to him or herself.
Similar laws have been proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly, but with a Republican governor and a Republican majority in the state House and Senate, those bills were essentially dead on arrival.
Hawkins County’s Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, which was approved 21-0 by the commission on Monday, states it will protect the Second Amendment rights of citizens “except for legally upheld statutes, laws, or final court orders.”
One speaker from the audience said that section makes it a “lame resolution” and suggested that the county eliminate that language, but the resolution was approved as it was submitted by Commissioner Mike Herrell.
Still, the massive crowd attending Monday’s commission meeting cheered enthusiastically as Hawkins County's Second Amendment sanctuary county resolution was approved. A video of the meeting can be viewed in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net.
“We have the right to bear arms”
Commission Chairman Rick Brewer noted that with a lengthy agenda for Monday's meeting he was limiting comments from the audience. Peggy Ray of St. Clair was recognized to address the commission by Herrell.
Ray, who is a conceal carry instructor for the state, told the commission the intent of the Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions was to provide a citizen oversight, to add to the first two layers of government oversight that we're already guaranteed in the U.S. and state constitution.
“The state of Tennessee is already a Second Amendment supportive state, and the community desires to support our surrounding counties and be in unison in their stance as Second Amendment sanctuary counties,” Ray told the commission. “The Second Amendment sanctuary resolution draws its inspiration and name from the immigration sanctuary movement in jurisdictions that have resolved not to assist our federal enforcement of immigration laws against illegal aliens.”
Ray added, “The Second Amendment sanctuary is only a natural response to the establishment of illegal laws against our law-abiding citizens. The precedent has already been set at the federal level that no funding cannot be withheld from legal and lawful sanctuaries.”
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson also spoke to the commission prior to its vote, stating that he reviewed the resolution and has no problem with it.
“I see what's going on in America and different states around us, and what people are trying to infringe on,” Lawson added. “I want to say, as long as I'm sheriff in Hawkins County, I'll uphold the Constitution of the state of Tennessee and the Constitution of the United States. Everything will be fine here in Hawkins County. We have the right to bear arms.”
“Revise the resolution language to be effective”
Brewer also recognized Tonya Strunk-Katzin of Eidson who said just because the red flag laws don't appear to have enough support in the Tennessee General Assembly at this time, there is the possibility that could change.
“We can't tell the future, so we have to prepare ourselves for that,” Strunk-Katzin said.
Strunk-Katzin said the section of the resolution that states “except for legally upheld statutes, laws, or final court orders” makes this a “lame resolution.”
“I urge you to revise the resolution language to be effective, and recommend that it be passed immediately,” she added.
The commission approved the resolution as presented.
Hawkins County joins several other Tennessee counties that have passed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions, including Polk, Blount, Monroe, Loudon, Roan, Carter, Jefferson and the town of Dandridge, Sevier, Hamblen, Greene, Sullivan, Cocke, Claiborne, Unicoi, Johnson, Grainger, Hancock, and Wayne County. The Washington County Commission was considering a similar resolution on Monday as well.