Jackson County leaders declared the county is now a "Second Amendment Sanctuary" last week, but the move is more symbolic than enforceable.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners adopted a "sanctuary county" resolution Feb. 3 after it was presented to the board by chairman Tom Crow.
The resolution says that the BOC stands behind the sheriff's office if it decides to not enforce "unconstitutional firearms law." It also states that the county will not use any county money to enforce "...laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right by the people to keep and bear arms..."
Jackson joins several other counties in Northeast Georgia and around the nation that have adopted similar statements.
The resolution has no legally-binding effect since local laws cannot overrule state or federal laws. Laws regulating firearms, such as mandated background checks to purchase a gun, the prohibition against convicted felons from having a gun and the prohibition against guns on school campuses are still in effect.
County law enforcement officials could choose to ignore those and other existing gun laws, but that could also open the county up to being sued.
The sanctuary gun movement began in 2013, but recently gained steam following last year's win by Democrats in the Virginia statehouse. Democrats in that state vowed to enact stronger gun control measures. The reaction has spread from that state around the nation as gun rights advocates push for their local government to not enforce gun laws that they believe violate their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The movement is also gaining steam this year due to upcoming elections where some candidates seek to embrace the pro-gun movement for political gain. After presenting the sanctuary county resolution last week, Crow announced his intention to seek re-election to the BOC chairman's seat this year.
One person spoke out against the resolution at the BOC meeting, saying it was just "ploy" and that it will have no impact on the county.
A woman from Arcade was charged last week with aggravated assault and felony murder following the shooting of her husband on Feb. 4.
Karen Whisnant, 40, allegedly shot her husband, Michael Shane Whisnant, 41, in the chest at their Athens St. residence in Arcade. Michael Whisnant was pronounced dead at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center that night.
Jackson County Sheriff's Office deputies and officers from the Arcade Police Department and Jefferson Police Department responded to the scene. A Jefferson officer reported seeing Karen Whisnant on top of Michael yelling, "please, don't leave me," when he entered the residence. Karen was holding a towel to Michael's chest, but he had stopped breathing when officers and EMS arrived.
Karen told the JPD officer that Michael had "been beating on her" throughout the day. She said the attacks messed up her teeth and mouth, but the officer reportedly didn't notice any facial injuries.
Karen also said she didn't know the gun was loaded when she pointed it at her husband.
Three children were in the residence during the shooting.
Karen Whisnant is currently in jail being held without bond.
After weeks of debate, the Jefferson City Council voted 3-2 Feb. 10 to create a part-time city communications position to be filled by a subcontractor. The council voted to allot $12,000 for the remainder of the year to the communications position.
The debate over the position was at times contentious, including back-and-forth bickering between city manager Priscilla Murphy and some council members over the idea.
Murphy generally opposed the move, saying that she and department heads would still have to gather the info to provide to a communications person. She said that providing such information could be done internally with existing staff.
"If my staff doesn't provide this information to the contractor, you won't get it either," Murphy said at one point.
Council member Mark Mobley made the motion to create the position, saying that he thought the existing staff simply didn't have time to keep the city's website and social media efforts up-to-date.
"I think the staff is busy with other things," Mobley said. "What I want is somebody that's their job to make sure communications happens because we're in a communications age and I'm a big fan, a big fan, of the public knowing what we're doing."
But Muphy pushed back, saying that the council had never had a vote giving her direction about what it wants city hall to communicate.
"You're saying what you want," she replied to Mobley. "I've had the mayor say what he wants, I've had every one of you tell me what you want, you want, you want, but I've not had one time... where the council said, 'I want this' and vote on it... you didn't give my staff a chance, you're just going to vote for someone from the outside to do it, but my staff still has to provide this information.... this person will not be effective at all without my staff providing information."
Council member Jon Howell said he "reluctantly" supported the motion to create the position.
"I find this very unfortunate to see staff and city hall leadership arguing back and forth," Howell said. "... but it's time to see a city that communicates at a higher level. I believe, even though it's against staff objection, at this moment you will see that having a layer where we can filter information out to the public will be a good thing. I do this reluctantly — this should be something we should do internally and I'm struggling with it that we can't. In the long I think staff will see this as a good thing."
Howell, Mobley and councilman Clint Roberts voted in favor of the motion while councilmen Malcolm Gramley and Steve Kinney voted against it.