By Richard Rourk
Unicoi County officially became a Second Amendment Sanctuary County following a unanimous vote by the Unicoi County Commission on Monday, Dec. 16.
A motion to approve the proposal to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary County was made by Unicoi County Commissioner Todd Wilcox and seconded by Unicoi County Commissioner John Mosley. Wilcox and Mosley were joined by Chairman Loren Thomas, Vice Chairman Jamie Harris and commissioners Stephen Hendrix, Glenn White, Jason Harris and Marie Rice in voting to approve the move to become a sanctuary county. Unicoi County Commissioner Matthew Rice was absent from the Dec.16 meeting. Following the vote, those in attendance at the Unicoi County Courthouse erupted in applause.
The resolution sends the message that the county will not utilize funds for the enforcement of any gun control laws that violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, according to local officials. Wilcox, who has spent months working on the proclamation told The Erwin Record that it has been rewarding.
“I have been working on this proclamation for three months, but I have been following the issue since 2015,” Wilcox said. “I am all for safety, but we already have safeguards in our current laws; we don’t need anymore. I’d rather spend time helping people.”
Wilcox thanked the crowd for coming out to the meeting and showing their support either way on the issue.
“I appreciate everyone coming out either for or against this; I really appreciate both sides,” Wilcox said. “There have already been two red flag laws (HB1049 and HB1446) introduced in Tennessee and luckily they died in the house, I argue that we already have safeguards in place. You call law enforcement if you think someone is in danger to you or themselves. You call law enforcement and we will take care of that person.”
Red flag laws are gun control laws that permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. The decision to temporarily remove guns comes from a judge. According to Wilcox, red flag laws will push more people to not report safeguards that are already in place.
“If you see something you have to report it,” Wilcox said. “These red flag laws will keep people from this area from reporting anyone needing help.
Wilcox presented statistics he said came from FBI studies and the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study (ECA) to support his stance.
“When you look at the statistics in the nation, 60 percent of gun violence is gang-related; this has nothing to do with law-abiding citizens,” Wilcox said. “You look at mental health, just 3-4 percent is actually due to mental health; mental health is not a predictor, and I have looked at both sides of the argument.”
Thomas thanked Wilcox for his hard work on the proclamation.
“I want to recognize Mr. Wilcox for his work on the resolution to name Unicoi County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County,” Thomas said.
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In a final order of business, the commission voted unanimously to approve that a 501c3 corporation be established and that an interlocal agreement be prepared determining each governments’ level of participation in the proposed Unicoi County EMS ambulance service.
The vote came following a motion to approve the plan by Jamie Harris and seconded by Mosley.
“We met with the Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor of Aldermen earlier in the evening and expressed that we needed to know where they stood with this, and expressed that time was of the essence,” Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely told the commission.
The Town of Erwin has already agreed in principle to join Unicoi County in starting the Unicoi County EMS when the current contract with Washington County/Johnson City EMS expires in July of 2020. For more about the Unicoi County EMS please see page 1-A.