Commission: ‘Deputy Owsley, you must buy your weapon’

Published 3:38 pm Wednesday, March 1, 2023

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Last month, the Claiborne Commission tabled a motion to decide whether Claiborne County Sheriff’s officers can retain their service weapons upon retirement. The question was answered during the February meeting via recommendation of the Claiborne County Buildings, Grounds & Personnel Committee who had met in session just prior.

The short answer for retired Deputy Craig Owsley is ‘no’ since the former officer had just 17 years in with the Claiborne Sheriff’s Office. Owsley can, however, purchase the weapon from the county for the current cost of $600.

The new policy follows the current Tennessee Highway Patrol guidelines that allow all retiring officers with at least 25 years of full-time, continuous service to keep their weapon. Those who are disabled with a minimum of 20 years in or one who cannot reach the minimum service years due to established retirement age may also keep their gun. The caveat is that to qualify, the officer must have honorably retired in good standing.

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The policy also allows a retired officer who does not qualify under the guidelines to purchase his weapon, at cost.

Commissioner Sherry McCreary asked during the discussion period whether it matters how long an officer served if he did not qualify but was willing to buy the gun. McCreary was told by county attorney James Estep III that it did not matter.

Commissioner Whitt Shuford questioned the across-the-board nature of the policy having to do with length of service.

“A new employee can come in, work for six months and, if they want to buy their firearm, we can sell it to them? The Sheriff should have the ability to say ‘no’. You don’t know what this person comes in and works for a year for and they may be a total derelict and they don’t need to be out here with a gun,” said Shuford.

Commissioner David Mundy also questioned the ability to purchase a weapon by someone who might have worked a couple of years only to be fired from the force.

After more discussion, the policy was amended to include the verbiage “will be at the discretion of the Sheriff.”

The policy was unanimously adopted and the original resolution became null and void.