It’s been a little more than a year since commissioners in Rutherford County, Tennessee, declared the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary, but some residents are wondering why employees of the county are still required to be disarmed on the job.
Former detention officer and current Rutherford County resident Edward Phillips says the county employees, many of whom are required to work alone in rural areas, should be able to protect themselves while on the job. Commissioner Craig Harris, however, argues that armed employees present a liability issue for the county.
“The reason I have voted to keep the policy in place is I feel we would have too much exposure of liability for the county,” Harris said. “If somebody negligently fired a gun or shot someone, then we would lose our immunity, and we would be sued.”
The county should not expedite the chance of being held liable by allowing all employees to carry guns while working, he said.
An ad hoc committee led by Harris comprised of several elected officials, including the county sheriff and the county attorney, also recommended keeping the gun ban for county employees in place. Commissioner Pettus Read, who was a driving force in the push to name Rutherford County a Second Amendment Sanctuary, was also a member of the ad hoc committee and said the two issues shouldn’t be conflated with one another.
Read said only the county’s law enforcement deputies should be allowed to carry guns while working because they go through extensive training in how and when to use firearms.
“We don’t want any accidents,” Read said.
As the Daily News Journal reports, however, there are several neighboring communities that do allow employees to be legally armed on the job. In Mt. Juliet, a city of about 31,000 people just north of Nashville, officials decided back in 2019 that city workers shouldn’t have to be unarmed while they’re at work. Mayor James Maness says liability wasn’t really a concern.
Maness said it was an easy decision for him to respect the Second Amendment rights of his city’s employees.
“These were rights they already had as American citizens,” Maness said. “I don’t want to infringe on any rights that people have. We just quit infringing on their existing rights.”
The Rutherford County Steering, Legislative & Governmental Committee is set to consider the recommendation of the ad hoc committee to keep the carry ban for county employees in place at a meeting Monday evening. While I understand the concerns about liability, the fact remains that the county could also face a lawsuit if an employee was attacked on the job and was unable to defend herself because the county’s policy required her to be disarmed.
In our litigious society, it’s almost impossible to indemnify governments against legal action. Far better to side with the Constitution and the Second Amendment than to deny county workers their ability to protect themselves on the job in the name of liability concerns. It may be a long shot, but I hope Rutheford County will undo the current ban and recognize the right to carry for those it employs.