Claiborne commission says ‘yes’ to sanctuary county

Published 10:20 am Tuesday, December 17, 2019

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County mayor Joe Brooks will be drafting a letter requesting that the state legislators think twice before adopting any new laws that could infringe upon the citizens’ Constitutional right to “bear arms.”

The Claiborne Commission voted unanimously to adopt resolution 2019-092 during its regular monthly meeting on Dec. 16. As written, the resolution provides a “safe haven” by declaring Claiborne a “2nd Amendment Sanctuary County.”

County resolution 092 was the result of a piece of state legislation being considered by the 111th General Assembly. If adopted, the bill will authorize police to issue “extreme risk protection” orders to those they deem a danger to himself or others.

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Brooks elaborated on the potential consequences of the state bill, if adopted.

“This came up during an Association of County Mayors meeting sometime ago, and it’s had a trickle-down effect across all the counties. Literally speaking, on paper this (the county resolution) has very little teeth as a governing body here, in Claiborne county. But, what it does is give me the ability to draft a letter to Senator Frank Nicely and to Representative (Jerry) Sexton.

“It’s not saying anything about not doing background checks. It’s not saying anything about high-capacity magazines. It does ask not to be restrictive on the ‘red flag’ laws (Families Know First Act) and that’s important,” said Brooks.

He explained the reasoning behind the request, referring to the two bills – SB0943/HB1049 – currently being kicked around at the state level.

“If they adopt them as they are presented in those two bills, you could have a spouse or loved-one, for whatever reason, have a spat with you. And, all they would have to do is call and say that you’re a threat and that you have a gun. And then, you’re without the ability to carry guns any further until you go through the process of proving that you’re not (a threat),” said Brooks.

County attorney James Estep III was asked what more could be done to build on resolution 092.

“It’s in the Constitution. You’re taking all available methods, at this point. We’re a county commission. We don’t adopt law. It’s already law. It’s in the 2nd Amendment. What this (the letter to the state legislators) is doing is making sure it (the 2nd Amendment) doesn’t get watered-down or diluted,” said Estep.

A member of the audience asked if there were any contingency plans if “it starts to go downhill, like in Virginia.”

“I promise you, I’m not coming after your guns,” responded Claiborne sheriff Bob Brooks, which prompted sprinkles of laughter and applause.

In other action, a coworker of the home-health nurse who was recently mauled by dogs addressed the commission. The coworker asked whether the county has any leash laws.

She said she was very concerned about this most recent attack, due to its severity.

The nurse asked if the county would consider employing an animal-control officer.

“Very often, our patients are elderly and they’re always sick. Very often, it’s not even their dog. Sometimes, it’s feral dogs.

“We have conversations with people. We say the dog has to be restrained or we don’t come back. Sometimes it happens. Very often, it doesn’t. We have an obligation and responsibility to provide healthcare to that patient,” said the coworker.

Sheriff Brooks addressed the woman’s questions.

“The owner of the dogs (who mauled the home-health worker) is bedridden. I believe she is blind. They have a woven-wire fence with three strands of barbed-wire on top of it. The dogs learned how to climb up on the woven-wire and pull it down.

“There have been no reports about (other instances) of dogs (bites), as I’m aware of. As a healthcare provider, you run into this situation, you call 911 and an officer will come there to contact the owners to make the dogs safe. And, you stay in your car,” said Brooks.

The coworker said that she had had problems early on, when she first moved to her current home on the Claiborne/Union county border.

“Stray dogs and people abandoning dogs was an issue. That problem, for us, has gone away and I’m crediting that to the animal-control officer (employed by Union county),” said the coworker.

She asked whether it was illegal to use pepper spray if attacked by animals. She was told by the sheriff it was “absolutely” legal.

“That’s what it’s for,” said Brooks.

Apparently, dog bites have become the norm for many who work in this field. A second home-health employee said she had been bitten by a dog, earlier this year, while returning to her vehicle after a home visit.