A resolution declaring Sumner County a “sanctuary” for the Second Amendment was approved Monday by the Sumner County Commission. 

Local gun rights advocates erupted in applause at the 18-4 decision, which rejected a version of the resolution from the county’s legislative committee that replaced specific references for the right to keep and bear arms with language that instead supported all 10 amendments to the United States Constitution in the Bill of Rights.

“What these people, the citizens of Sumner County, have overwhelmingly asked is for us to state our opinion on the Second Amendment,” Commissioner Merrol Hyde said prior to the vote. “They didn’t approach us to pass something on the Bill of Rights.

“Next month, those of you who want to do a Bill of Rights (resolution), I’ll support that too.”

The sanctuary county resolution was first introduced by Commissioner Jeremy Mansfield and states that Sumner County “will not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers, or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of such acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations” that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms as described in the nearly three-page document.

Commissioner Chris Taylor, who proposed the change earlier this month that would have instead focused on the Bill of Rights, restated his support for the Second Amendment on Monday while adding that “all of our rights are under attack at different times.”

“Make us a sanctuary county for all freedoms,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t just have to be the Second Amendment. 

“If you’re going to make a statement, make it big.”

A proposed third resolution, described as a “middle ground” between the other two versions, was proposed by Commissioner Deanne DeWitt but failed due to a lack of support.

Supporters, opponents speak

Before the meeting Monday, supporters of the original sanctuary county resolution held a rally outside the Sumner County Administration Building in Gallatin. 

County leaders also heard from more than 20 residents who expressed their disapproval of the changes made by the legislative committee prior to voting.

“There are groups actively working day and night to restrict and abolish the Second Amendment through additional legislation,” Gallatin resident Brandon Johnson said. “This is a message that we can send to Nashville and to Washington.

“If you do not protect (the Second Amendment), soon they will come after our other freedoms.”

To date, more than 40 of the 95 counties in Tennessee have already approved resolutions specifically supporting the Second Amendment, according to Bethpage resident Kimberly Hasse with Sumner County Stands United.

The movement was promoted by new gun legislation like red flag laws that has been proposed by state legislators in states around the country like Virginia. Opponents have referred to the measures as “gun confiscation” or “gun grab” laws that violate an individual’s right to due process. 

“Red flag laws go against our founding principle that we are innocent until proven guilty and are therefore unconstitutional,” Hasse said.

Portland resident Kristi Cornett was one of three people who spoke Monday in support of the version of the resolution that included the entire Bill of Rights. While being opposed to taking guns from responsible gun owners, she believes red flag laws would help reduce the number of suicides statewide.

“Bills such as this should be decided at the state level,” Cornett added. “Therefore, passing resolutions that are legally meaningless (are) not relevant to county commission meetings and only show that local bodies do not support life-saving legislation involving extreme risk protection orders at the state House.”

Despite at least four other counties passing nearly identical resolutions as the one in Sumner County, Commissioner Baker Ring said he still could not support any resolution that he felt violated his oath of office.

“Our oath of office says we are to support and defend the constitution of the State of Tennessee and the constitution of the United States,” Ring said. “I cannot vote for the original resolution with wording in there that tells us we must violate state law if we pass this.”

Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt said Monday that he would not veto the resolution. He also called for civility among everyone involved in the debate.

“Nobody… me, any elected official (or) any commissioner is going to take anybody’s guns in Sumner County,” Holt added. “I don’t know of anybody here that… needs to be demonized because they really believe that everyone’s Second Amendment rights needs to be protected.”

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