Wilson County became the latest area in Tennessee to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary on Monday after the Wilson County Commission voted in favor.
That move represents a commitment from the county government not to enforce any laws perceived as violations of the Second Amendment.
“I’ve been told by some people that Tennessee is not at any risk of losing Second Amendment rights, and yet there’s already bills filed,” District 3 Commissioner Bobby Franklin said. “Red flag bills are filed at the legislature right now where one complaint against anyone with a handgun permit can be confiscated if deemed some sort of threat. It’s usually incrementalism to do away with a Second Amendment right … this is important to our community, it’s important to the safety and welfare of our residents.”
District 14 Commissioner Tommy Jones said gun control measures are unlikely to pass through state legislature when introduced and asked the commission to postpone the resolution indefinitely.
“This really isn’t an issue about owning a gun,” he said. “I own as many guns as anybody in this room, but it’s an issue about people trying to put fear in someone. If you show me where someone is attacking our Second Amendment right now I’ll go home and get my gun and stand with these folks right here, but I don’t see that.”
Dozens of members of the public also attended the meeting, but were not permitted to address the commission while they deliberated per its traditional rules. Wilson County Sheriff’s Office employees were nearly dispatched to remove audience members who continued speaking.
“When they not only didn’t give us the opportunity to speak, but put out a motion to table the resolution indefinitely, we had no choice,” Dawna LoPiccolo of gun rights advocacy group Wilson County Stands United said. “Nobody wants to be put in a position of being disrespectful, but we felt like our voices were being silenced on an important issue.”
Ultimately, the resolution passed the commission with 19 votes in favor and none against. Commissioners Kenny Reich, Terry Ashe, Sonja Robinson and Annette Stafford abstained, while commissioners Robert Fields and Joy Bishop were absent.
Since the resolution was passed at the county level, it is unclear what would happen if a state or federal law contradicting it is put in place. County Attorney Mike Jennings expects that either one would effectively invalidate the resolution.
Supporters of the Second Amendment sanctuary movement aim to convince legislatures to prevent those laws from being passed at all.
“Basically, we want to be proactive where Virginia was reactive,” LoPiccolo said. “We want state officials to know how each county feels, and Second Amendment sanctuaries send a clear message to them about what their constituents want.”
More than 20 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, and movements in other counties remain active.
The commission also voted to indefinitely postpone a resolution that would have declared no consent to refugee resettlement in the county.
District 8 Commissioner Kevin Costley said the county had received an email from UT County Technical Assistance Service indicating Wilson County was not being considered for refugee placement, while others expressed reservations about making the decision at the county level.
“I’ve been up here a long time, and there’s two things you do as county commissioner,” District 12 Commissioner Terry Ashe said. “You either vote to spend money or you don’t vote to spend money — how you spend your money dictates your policy. I’ve got problems with this, and I don’t want to get tied up.”
In addition, the commission voted to approve an appraisal on the old Fred’s building, with an amendment to buy the property if the value comes back at $875,000 or more.
The Wilson County Budget Committee had previously deferred action on that item pending an appraisal, but members of the full body were concerned about missing the purchase window.
If the location is purchased, the county hopes to use it as a new office for the Wilson County Election Commission and as storage for court documents.
The Wilson County Commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 24, at the Wilson County Courthouse on 228 E. Main St. in Lebanon.