Bear necessities: Residents picket for Second Amendment
By Wes Wade | (email@example.com)
Hundreds from Blount County and surrounding areas joined outside the Blount County Courthouse Saturday afternoon for a “Rally for the 2nd Amendment,” speaking out in opposition to any new gun legislation.
Legislators have been debating limiting high capacity magazines and assault-style weapons in the wake of several recent shooting tragedies. That’s what prompted Saturday’s rally, which drew more than 400 attendees, in an effort to send a message that many in East Tennessee are not willing to accept such proposed restrictions on firearms sales.
Oak Ridge resident Norman Humphries said that people all across the nation should be concerned, saying these proposed laws area a direct infringement upon the Second Amendment, something he’s been working to protect his whole life.
“I’ve been working on it for 77 years; generationally (sic), I’ve been working on it some 230 years,” Humphries said, harking back to the days of the founding fathers who helped draft the U.S. Constitution.
“Before you have tyranny in a country, the last step is they take away your guns,” Humphries said.
Founding Fathers cited
One of the rally’s main organizers, Blount Count Sheriff’s Office Lt. Randy Ailey, said those who argue against the sales of assault rifles because they aren’t needed for hunting are missing the point of Second Amendment protection.
“Someone may ask, do you need that AR-15 to go hunting?,” Ailey said before the hundreds gathered on the front lawn and lining the surrounding sidewalks of the court house. “Is that what it’s about? I just read the Second Amendment and did it say anything about hunting? No. It said about the right to bear arms ... it’s been chipped away at and chipped away at and it’s not going to be chipped away at anymore.”
Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell was present and spoke to attendees as well, stating that he wanted everyone present to know that he works for the citizens of Blount County.
“I will never do anything that takes away any right that will take away your freedom,” Mitchell said. “Because I know that’s the job of elected officials ... and if you’re like me you probably never thought in your lifetime that you’d have to stand up and be recognizing the federal government’s intent to do away with the Second Amendment — or any amendment.”
Mitchell went on to liken the current state of affairs to that the Founding Fathers faced more than 200 years ago with a government that was slowly attempting to disarm its citizenry.
“Britain said in Parliament that the most effective way to enslave the colonies is to take their weapons away,” Mitchell said “The colonies revolted, we dominated and we won. A lesson has been learned and the Constitution has been written.”
The Blount County mayor went on to recount that we have become a government of the people, by the people and for the people, all as a result of a battle won against Great Britain more than two centuries ago.
“Our Founding Fathers were some of the most intelligent, insightful and foresightful men of that generation,” Mitchell continued. “I feel they put the Second Amendment in there to ensure the government would never fail to follow the Constitution.”
He also said it may be time to elect new leaders to Capitol Hill.
I do not want politicians in Washington, the majority of which I do not trust, having anything to do with controlling the safety of my family, my friends or my community,” Mitchell said. “If they can’t even balance this country’s finances and checkbook, how can they have any idea what is best for us as citizens?”
Knox County Kevin Desmond said he came to the rally in hopes the Second Amendment is not eschewed, explaining that the additional nine in the original Bill of Rights would be lost as well if that were to happen.
“And truth be told, this isn’t about gun control,” Desmond said. “This is about people control.”
The other side
There was only one visible dissenter among attendees, a woman who supports the currently proposed legislation to limit high-capacity magazines and assault rifles from being sold.
Holding a sign which read “Do you really need armor-piercing bullets, high-capacity clips, assault weapons, really?!” the woman said she was actually surprised that she was not met with any degree of hostility from rally goers.
“It was a very, very, just respectful, open discussion,” the woman, who wished to remain unidentified, said, adding that she engaged in healthy, adult debates with others who did not share her views.
“I know there’s a lot of fear about this law,” she said. “No one’s going to lose their guns, what this law will do is take away those high-capacity clips and (assault rifles). Say if you take one gun away, that saves one child. One bullet is one person. And that’s common sense to me, and I think we need to take baby steps because this is getting out of hand ... and it gets lost in the fear.
New laws not answer
Lt. Ailey invited several state senators and representatives to attend, but, given little more than a week to prepare for the event, none could attend, he said. Even Blount County Sheriff James L. Berrong was unable to attend due to prior commitments. But Berrong, along with Rep. Art Swann and Senators Doug Overbey and Bob Corker each sent letters which Ailey read on their behalf, all in support of the rally and in their commitment to protect the Second Amendment at all costs.
Berrong stated the following in his letter:
“Since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last year, the issue of gun control, and more specifically, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, has come to the forefront once again. Though I understand some of the reasoning behind this push, I agree neither in the philosophy for this proposed ban, nor the tactics President Obama and many of our legislators in Washington are using to take away a law-abiding citizen’s right to bear arms”
Berrong also noted in the letter that he supported and helped work in the passing of a handgun carry permit law for the state back in 1994, which “has proven to be a good law, and it has worked well in this great state,” he wrote in the statement.
Sen. Overbey wrote in his letter that, “Please tell those assembled that I strongly support our right to bear arms ... and strictly oppose any new legislation to restrict the ownership of guns or gun owners.”
Rep. Swann said in his letter, “I’m sure there are citizens who don’t want these (recent) tragedies repeated in East Tennessee, but I also believe we don’t need more gun control.”
Mayor Mitchell said his heart reaches out to the families and victims of the latest shooting tragedies, but said he believes a gun ban would not have saved lives.
“At no time can we blame these tragedies on the guns used and not the person (who committed them),” Mitchell said. “I have no doubt in my mind had a gun not been available those people would have committed those violent acts whether they had a gun or not.”