Kenny Crenshaw was speaking earnestly — the look on his face familiar to most of his onlookers, who had seen it numerous times on a host of billboards and TV screens. Only this time the easily recognized local lawn services proprietor wasn’t pleading to be allowed to “kill your weeds. “
It was Wednesday morning in the committee room of the Shelby County Commission, and Crenshaw was beseeching Commission members to take a stand for the rights of gun owners and against what he deemed “ a lot of attempts to infringe on the Second Amendment.”
Crenshaw and two other men — all touted in advance by Commissioner Terry Roland as “experts — were on hand to convince members of the Commission’s Government Operations Committee to support a resolution by Roland that, as described in its title, “shall be known and may be cited as the ‘Second Amendment Preservation Resolution.’ to prevent Federal infringement on the right to keep and bear arms; nullifying all Federal acts in violation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
Despite the baldness of the word “nullifying” in that final clause of the caption, the three petitioners were at pains to appear diffident and reasonable. “There’s no one here who is in any way an insurrectionist,’ said David Mixon, the second member of Roland’s support group. They were only asking “that the Commission support the Constitution of the United States of Amer ca [and] support the framers,” said Nixon.
|Shafer:“We’ve got a right to take care of ourselves and our family. And let me tell you: A kitchen spatula isn’t going to get it.”|
The third member of the trio was Richard Archie of Madison County, who had helped in the passage of similar resolutions elsewhere, including on freshly subscribed to by his home county government. “We’re simply asking our peers to stand forth and to notify the state of Tennessee that we’re desirous of having our Second Amendment rights upheld,” said Archie, who warned of disquieting activity “at the federal level” that threatened those rights.
Roland himself weighed in, saying his proposed resolution was “doing nothing more than saying we support the Second Amendment and the Constitution as it is written.”
Commissioner Heidi Shafer rejoiced at the opportunity to support “an issue near and dear to my heart.” She made the point that “the vast majority” of legally sold weaponry was used “for self-defense or hunting” and that those people who used guns for criminal purposes “have got them illegally.”
Recalling the recent reign of terror imposed on Boston, Shafer said, “We’ve got a right to take care of ourselves and our family. And let me tell you: A kitchen spatula isn’t going to get it.”
Commissioner James Harvey thought all the rhetoric was getting out of hand. He said he, too, supported the Second Amendment but averred , “No one is abolishing the Constitution.” All that was going on in Washington was an effort “to have a little b it more control to try and reduce gun violence.” Harvey professed himself to be uneasy about “people with behavior problems” walking around with guns. “Some of you have wives and husbands that you don’t want,” he said. “I just don’t want to live in a society that’s caught up with guns.”
Commissioner Wyatt Bunker pooh-poohed all that. “The sky’s not going to fall if we pass a resolution to uphold the Second Amendment,” he said. He lamented what he said was “a lot of fear-mongering” as wel l as misleading “media bias.” Gun laws were “in and of themselves, ineffective,” Bunker said. “I support the Second Amendment for that reason.”
Chairman Mike Ritz opined that “as a general rule, I think we should avoid these advisory requests,” that calling on the General Assembly to take action on such things “consumes a lot of time and is of no real value to citizens and taxpayers.” Ritz said that a statute to the same effect as the resolution had already been brought before the legislature “and the state dropped it on advice of the Attorney General.”
Archie, who said he’d spent abundant time in Nashville before legislative committees, objected that Ritz was wrong , that the measure objected to by the Attorney General had been Senate Bill 250, introduced by state Senator Mae Beavers (R- Mt. Juliet” and later withdrawn.
That bill, he noted, went much further than the current resolution. It would have gone so far as to designate federal officials as felons for enforcing new gun laws and would have subjected them to arrest. (Archie didn’t single it out, but state Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) had succeeded in getting the Senate to pass a resolution very like the one before the Commission.)
Commissioner Chris Thomas couldn’t resist reminding Ritz that if he thought “advisory” legislation was wasting the General Assembly’s time, he and the Commission majority, in the course of communicating opinions to the Assembly, shouldn’t have bothered legislators by “advising them on the school issue.”
|Nullification had been an issue in the Civil War. “We fought a war over that,”Mulroy said.|
Steve Mulroy, chairman of the Government Operations Committee, had been biding his time, and now he suggested that the resolution was not merely aimed at supporting the Second Amendment: “It goes far further in disturbing ways.”
Nullification had been an issue in the Civil War, he noted. “We fought a war over that,”Mulroy said, and he cited a clause in the resolution that calls upon Tennessee sheriffs to defend Tennesseans “against infringements upon their rights and to hold the federal government to the limitations provided under the Constitution.” He mused: Would the supporters of the resolution really expect Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham to round up federal officials?
In the end the matter was put to a vote. Four committee members — Roland, Bunker, Thomas, and Shafer — voted Aye, and one, Mulroy voted no. The others had either absented themselves or opted not to vote.
The voting on Wednesday was a preliminary of sorts.. It will all be done all over again on Monday, May 6, when the full Commission gets a chance to vote on the resolution — this time for real.