CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County commissioners want to send a message to state and federal legislators that they support the right to bear arms as provided by the Constitution and state law.
On Tuesday, commissioners voted 13-0 for a resolution introduced by Commissioner Adam Lowe that urges the county's state and federal representatives "to support any and all legislation that preserves the gun ownership and carry rights of the citizens of Bradley County, the State of Tennessee and the United States."
"The reason why we see it necessary to send this formal message is because most federal and state laws actually have to be carried out on the local level," Lowe said after the commission meeting.
Commissioner Jeff Morelock, the only commissioner to abstain from the vote, expressed mixed feelings on the matter. Ultimately, he said, he did not believe the Bradley County Commission has any authority in constitutional issues.
"I fully support Second Amendment rights, I fully support that," he said. "I just think we've gone crazy in this country about guns."
Morelock cited other rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to assemble, that he said did not compel people to speak on the street corner or hold a parade every day.
Before the vote, Lowe spoke at length about gun control, which he said has been reinvigorated since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in December. He said opposition to gun ownership is "a decades-old recycled debate" driven by fear and lacking an academic basis.
"[The] greater body of present, scholarly research shows that restricting legal possession of firearms, including military-style semiautomatic rifles, does not have a sufficient impact on the reduction of violent crime," Lowe's resolution stated.
Several commissioners discussed Lowe's measure, weapons-related legislation that could affect possession of assault rifles and whether eligible school faculty may carry weapons on campuses.
"We're not saying here [with] this action, 'everybody carry a gun indiscriminately,'" Commissioner Bill Winters said.
"We support [the Legislature] in making those decisions," he said. "Some of those decisions will cut across everybody carrying a gun anywhere they want to carry them."
"I have mixed emotions about assault rifles, but I will definitely vote to support the Second Amendment," Commissioner Terry Caywood said. He also said he once owned an assault rifle but it did not fit his lifestyle.
Caywood said a number of teachers have expressed concerns to him about firearms on campus, stating their job is to teach students, not become law enforcement agents.
"There's a balance, and I hope we're finding it," he said.